Barcelona – Athletic Club: Barça Create Their Own Luck To Salvage A Narrow Victory (1-0)
Inconsistencies in Barça’s actions and a lacking intensity to their execution left them in a sorry state against a well-drilled Athletic side. However, persistent pressure paid off as the visitors could not escape the clutches of Quique Setién’s unrelenting men, who played off of their own wrongdoings to win the match.
Tactical analysis and match report by Peter Munnelly.
Barça’s frustrating goalless draw away at Sevilla on Friday might well have marked their fourth consecutive clean sheet, but it also allowed their direct rivals, Real Madrid, to gain the upper hand in the title race.
Looking to get back to winning ways, Setién made minor changes to his 4-3-3 setup. These included Arthur Melo replacing Ivan Rakitić in the midfield three, as well as Martin Braithwaite making way for Antoine Griezmann in the frontline.
As for Gaizka Garitano’s Athletic side, they still had ambitions on European qualification, sitting six points shy of Villarreal in sixth, having played a game less heading into this encounter.
Following their 1-0 victory over Real Betis at the weekend, the head coach made wholesale changes. Óscar de Marcos, Unai Núñez and Mikel Balenziaga all stepped into the back four of the 4-4-2 setup. In midfield, Iñigo Lekue and Mikel Vesga were also awarded starts. Finally, up alongside the ever present Iñaki Williams was twenty-year-old Oihan Sancet, preferred to Iker Muniain.
Athletic’s defensive rotation
It was clear early on that Garitano’s men were not here to attack the hosts with open, expansive football . . .