Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Barcelona: 5 men who were poor for the Blaugrana
For Ernesto Valverde, the game against Athletic Bilbao on Friday represented a chance to set a marker for the new season. The Spaniard failed to live up to the expectations last season, as Barcelona crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in extraordinary fashion in the semi-final stage.
The Catalans also lost in the final of the Copa del Rey, which left the LaLiga giants with just the league title at the end of the season. Valverde knew that a failure to improve would most certainly cost him his job.
The Catalans had been impressive in pre-season, with new man Frenkie de Jong looking right at home in the midfield. Valverde's other summer signing, Antoine Griezmann, had a slow start to life at the Camp Nou. However, the Spaniard named both of his new signings in his first eleven on the night.
He opted for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal, with a back four of Nelson Semedo, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, and Jordi Alba. In midfield, Valverde put Frenkie de Jong alongside Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto, while in attack, Antoine Griezmann was selected alongside Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.
Barcelona were very poor from the start, even though Suarez did hit the post in the first half before he picked up an injury and had to be withdrawn. The first half ended 0-0. The Catalans improved in the second half but struggled to score a goal. They were undone in the dying minutes of the game when Aritz Aduriz scored in spectacular fashion to give Athletic Bilbao all 3 points.
Ernesto Valverde's team failed to show up in the first game of the season, but these 5 men were especially poor on the night.
#5 Sergi Roberto
The versatile Spaniard had been a key feature in Ernesto Valverde's team last season, as he was used both at right-back and in central midfield to good effect. Sergi Roberto was stationed in a central midfield role alongside new boy Frankie de Jong against Athletic Bilbao, as Valverde hoped to have enough ammunition in the midfield to dictate the game.
However, the Spanish midfielder failed to have an impact on the night, as Barcelona were undone by the constant pressing from the opposition.
Sergi Roberto's inefficiency in the midfield prompted Valverde to bring in Ivan Rakitic after the break. The Croatian immediately took over the reins of the midfield, while Sergi Roberto was pushed forward. The Spaniard failed to improve and was ultimately substituted in the 76th minute.