Barcelona fans were treated with a feast at Camp Nou on Sunday night as Luis Enrique’s team demolished Athletic Bilbao 6-0 to send a message to Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the title race.
It was another convincing performance from the Spanish and European champions who had plenty of fun on the pitch against the Basque side.
Barcelona returned to the second place in the La Liga standings and are still two points behind the leaders Atletico Madrid, but with a game in hand. Real Madrid were successful as well, but are trailing behind the Catalans by two points.
Here are the five things we learned from a fantastic display from Luis Enrique’s team:
- Early expulsion key moment in the game
Barcelona headed strong into the game with Neymar attempting a cross to pose a threat to Athletic Bilbao’s goal at the very beginning of the game, but both sets of fans would not have expected the match to be solved after only four minutes.
To be fair to Bilbao the visitors had a fantastic opportunity to get on the scoreline after only three minutes of the game through Javier Eraso, who picked up a perfect pass only to fire it over the bar.
And then in the very next moment, Barca quick-fired the attack through Luis Suarez who was brought down in the area by Gorka Iraizoz. Antonio Mateu Lahoz blew the whistle for a penalty kick which was successfully converted by Leo Messi, who scored his tenth of the season.
Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper was awarded a red card and the visitors were forced to take down Iker Muniain in order to bring in Iago Herrerin, who was unable to stop the FIFA Ballon d’Or winner from slotting home.
The moment of Iraizoz’s expulsion completely changed the game and has forced the visiting team to alter their style of play and ambitions heading into the duel.
- Athletic Bilbao missed Aritz Aduriz
The 34-year-old Spain forward missed the trip to Camp Nou through suspension and Lions’ attack line was beheaded without their top scorer this season.
The experienced forward has netted 11 league goals this season, scoring the majority of his team’s total tally of 28. Aduriz added six more in the Europa League and one in the Copa del Rey and his absence was more than obvious on the pitch against Barcelona.
Young Inaki Williams has been his worthy replacement, but the 21-year-old Spain international was cut off for the most part of his 60 minutes spent on the pitch. Athletic Bilbao youngster did display fantastic off-ball movement, but his teammates were unable to feed him the right balls to beat the Barcelona’s strong backline.
However, this youngster has already shown signs of great promise and there is a bright future ahead of him.
Williams netted six league goals and is expected to add a couple of more until the end of the season should Athletic Bilbao manage to keep hold of him past the January transfer window.
- Barcelona the main title favourites
The Catalans have put in a mesmerising display at home ground on Sunday night and their six goals were cherries on top of a wonderful performance.
Luis Enrique’s team dominated the possession with 72% to Athletic Bilbao’s 28%.
Barcelona created the total of 20 goal opportunities, 75% of those came from the open play which is another proof of Barcelona’s dominant performance.
The Catalans went full throttle through the proceedings and their main strength lies in the fact that Barcelona are never satisfied with the result.
Comprehensive win will be a huge morale boost for the team in their pursuit behind Atletico Madrid. The Rojiblancos are sitting on top of the league thanks to the fact that Barcelona played a game less due to their FIFA Club World Cup responsibilities at the end of last year.
Given the fact they have a game in hand, the Catalans have to be considered the main favourites to win the title.
- No stopping for Barca’s trio fantastico
There is such a strong chemistry among Barcelona’s key players and it seems that the atmosphere within the squad has never been better.
Messi, Neymar and Suarez are enjoying their football at the moment proving that they are in form of their lives.
Messi’s season has been hampered by injury, but the diminutive Argentine is back with 6 goals and three assists from five games in 2015. His La Liga tally now stands at ten goals and Barca fans can be happy to see their key man back to his best.
Neymar has this season shown signs of huge improvement.
The Brazilian wonder-boy has matured, establishing himself as the team’s leader and the proper team player. Neymar has picked eight assists in the Spanish top tier so far, while his Sunday’s goals versus Bilbao was his 16th so far, for a fantastic all-round record in the current season.
The Ballon d’Or nominee is not far from picking the desired trophy in the near future.
- Luis Suarez is Europe’s best striker?
The Uruguay striker deserved to be analysed apart from his two pals.
Suarez has been in scintillating form this season and he has his Sunday’s hat trick to prove it. His 29 goals from 29 performances across all competitions for Barcelona surely make him the worthy candidate of the Europe’s top striker title.
He had seven shots towards Athletic Bilbao’s goal three of which were successes. He also added one assists to his name to round up his incredible night.
The Uruguay striker is now level with P.E. Aubameyang with 18 league goals so far, two behind Gonzalo Higuain who is currently the leading top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues, but his on-pitch behaviour, incredible work rate and influence on his team’s play perhaps do make him the best of the best.
Would you agree?
BARCELONA: Bravo 7.5 – Vidal 7.5, Pique 7, Mascherano 7, Alba 7.5 (Bartra 6.5) – Rakitic 7.5 (Roberto 6.5), Busquets 7.5, Iniesta 7.5 – Messi 7 (Arda Turan 7), Suarez 9, Neymar 8.5.
Unused subs: Alves, El Haddadi, Ter Stegen, Vermaelen.
ATHLETIC BILBAO: Iraizoz 4 – Boveda 6, Etxeita 6.5, Laporte 6.5, Balenzaiga 6 – San Jose 6, Benat 6 (Iturraspe 6) – De Marcos 6, Eraso, Muniain 6 (Herrerin 6), Williams 6.5 (Merino 6).
Unused subs: Gurpegi, Lekue, Rico, Susaeta.
REFEREE: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Other results this evening
Valencia 2-2 Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid 5-1 Gijon
Getafe 3-1 Espanyol
Las Palmas 0-3 Atletico Madrid