Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Barcelona: 5 reasons why Barcelona lost the match | LaLiga 2019/2020
Barcelona fell to a 1-0 defeat on the opening day of the 2019/2020 LaLiga season, with a spectacular acrobatic strike from 38-year-old Aritz Aduriz settling the tie.
The Catalans came into the fixture as two-time defending LaLiga champions, and would have been seeking to kickoff their title defense with a victory at a packed San Mames.
However, that failed to happen, and with this defeat, Barcelona would find themselves playing catch-up to their domestic rivals.
Given the difference in pedigree and quality of players between both sides, the Blaugrana were heavily installed as favorites to win the tie, but in rather shocking scenes, the home side upset the form book and bookmakers' prediction with their victory.
In this piece, we shall be highlighting five reasons why Barcelona lost to Athletic Bilbao.
#1 The absence of Lionel Messi
In the lead up to the start of their LaLiga title defense, Ernesto Valverde sweated over the fitness of his captain Lionel Messi, as the Argentine had suffered a calf injury upon resumption of training during preseason.
The 55-year-old's worst fears were confirmed, when it was revealed that Barcelona would be without the services of their record goalscorer for the trip to the Basque country.
Barcelona have a multitude of proven world class performers within their ranks such that Lionel Messi's absence should ostensibly not be felt, but the 32-year-old's extraordinary talents and performance levels mean that his absence would always be felt by any team regardless of the presence of other players.
This proved to be the case against Bilbao, as the Catalans struggled for penetration and incisiveness which would not have been the case had their captain been present.
With Lionel Messi out of the side, head coach Gaizka Garitano instructed his players to press high up the field, hassling the Barcelona midfielders and barely giving them time to think or act.
It is hard to imagine that the home side would have played with such attacking impetus had Messi been available, and without his services, Barcelona lacked the ability to take advantage of the spaces left in behind by the high pressing Bilbao players.
Lionel Messi's status as a bonafide game changer is not in doubt, and fans of the Catalans would hope their talisman for the visit of Real Betis next weekend.