Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Barcelona: 5 Talking Points, LaLiga 2018/19
The Catalan giants were held to a goalless draw at the San Mamés Stadium by Athletic Bilbao as they went six points clear at the top of the league table. Atletico started the game brightly and succeeded in making Barcelona uncomfortable. The pace of Inaki Williams was always a danger on the counter, and the likes of Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique had their hands full.
Neither side failed to break the deadlock before half-time as Marc-Andre ter Stegen pulled off some great stops. The second half brought more of the same. For all the drama in the game, goals did not seem to be on the menu. Substitutes Iker Muniain and Ousmane Dembele did brighten up the game but the spoils were shared at the final whistle. Oscar de Marcos was sent off in the dying seconds for a second yellow card.
Barcelona extended their lead over second-placed Real Madrid to six points as Athletic moved further away from the relegation zone.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
#5 Messi over-dependency proves to be Barcelona's downfall
Lionel Messi is a vital player for Barcelona but there is a fine line between being dependent and handicapped. Against Athletic, the Argentine failed to produce anything, which proved to be their downfall.
Each time any Barcelona player got the ball in the final third, they immediately looked for Messi. Now that is not a bad idea, but Athletic did an impressive job of countering it. They gave Messi very little space and adopted a physical approach with him. He was fouled many times and was afforded little room in dangerous areas.
His teammates were lost for imagination when he was not open, which led to a lot of meaningless sideways passing. Barcelona took 10 shots, out of which just 2 were on target. They also created fewer chances than their opponents.
Ousmane Dembele started the game on the bench, which further increased the load on Messi's shoulders. The little man delivers more often than not but Valverde should think of a 'Plan B' when the situation demands it.