Barcelona moved into the top four of La Liga for the first time this season with a 3-2 victory against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames earlier today. Pedri and Lionel Messi were the stars of the show, with the latter scoring twice to condemn Marcelino to a defeat in his first game in charge of Athletic Bilbao.
The victory ensures that Barcelona are now five points behind arch-rivals behind Real Madrid after 17 La Liga games. The Catalan giants have improved in recent weeks and will have to work hard to mount a legitimate title challenge this season.
Barcelona bounced back against Athletic Bilbao after a disappointing start
Marcelino's reign at Athletic Bilbao got off to the best possible start as Inaki Williams scythed through the Barcelona defence and powered his shot past Ter Stegen to score the first goal of the game. Barcelona pushed ahead and found their equaliser ten minutes later as Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong combined to hand Pedri his second La Liga goal.
The Catalan giants were in no mood to relent and continued to press forward with Lionel Messi, Pedri, and Ousmane Dembele pulling the strings. Lionel Messi and Pedri showed further evidence of their budding relationship as they combined to give the Argentine Barcelona's second goal.
Athletic Bilbao did attempt to hit back at Barcelona at the start of the second half as Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia nearly latched on to dangerous crosses in the Barcelona's penalty area. The Catalan giants asserted their dominance yet again, however, with Lionel Messi feasting on a pass from Griezmann to cannon the ball into the roof of the net.
Barcelona switched to a three-man defence towards the end of the game and continued to keep the ball against a visibly tired Athletic Bilbao side. Iker Muniain had other ideas, however, and pulled a goal back towards the end of the game. Barcelona held on to their lead and kept their nerve to pick up a crucial victory.
Athletic Bilbao Player Ratings
Unai Simon - 4/10
Unai Simon was at fault for both Barcelona goals in the first half and was caught in no man's land as Pedri and Lionel Messi slotted their shots into open nets. The Basque shot-stopper did make a few impressive saves but will be largely disappointed with his under-par performance.
Unai Nunez - 5.5/10
Unai Nunez was let down by his goalkeeper for Barcelona's first goal of the game but could have done more to prevent Lionel Messi's goal in the second half. The centre-back struggled to cope with Barcelona's intricate play towards the end of the game.
Inigo Martinez - 6/10
Inigo Martinez had a decent outing against Barcelona and made a few vital interceptions in the first half. The Basque defender did fail to implement the offside trap, however, and will need to improve in the coming weeks.
Yuri Berchiche - 6.5/10
Yuri Berchiche had a promising start to the game and took a shot at Barcelona's goal from a tight angle after latching on to Iker Muniain's pass. The left-back picked up a hamstring strain at the half-hour mark and was replaced by Mikel Balenziaga.
Ander Capa - 6/10
Ander Capa was an industrious presence on the left flank but was unable to push forward against Ousmane Dembele and Sergino Dest. The left-back did create an excellent chance for Inaki Williams in the second half but was unable to make much of an impact in the final third.
Mikel Vesga - 5.5/10
Mikel Vesga endured a difficult game against the electric Ousmane Dembele and had to spend most of the game in his own half. The defensive midfielder picked up a yellow card in the first half-hour and was taken off for Dani Garcia in the second half.
Unai Vencedor - 5.5/10
Unai Vencedor was unable to stamp his authority on the game and struggled against the dynamism of Frenkie de Jong. The Basque midfielder was up against a stern challenge and became virtually anonymous towards the end of the game.
Iker Muniain - 7/10
Iker Muniain was threatening in the opening stages of the game and played a few probing passes to Inaki Williams and Yuri Berchiche. The Athletic Bilbao midfielder made the end of the game particularly interesting with a stunning finish and was arguably his side's best player.
Oscar de Marcos - 5/10
Oscar de Marcos had a quiet game and struggled to get out of his own half as Barcelona dominated the ball. The Basque winger could have done more to impede Frenkie de Jong in the build-up to Barcelona's equaliser and was replaced in the second half.
Inaki Williams - 6.5/10
Inaki Williams stunned Barcelona with his pace and tore Clement Lenglet apart for his goal in the third minute of the game. The pacy winger did manage a few more shots but went into a shell after his opening goal.
Raul Garcia - 6.5/10
Raul Garcia did brilliantly to release Inaki Williams through the Barcelona defence for Athletic Bilbao's opening goal. The La Liga veteran had only one opportunity in Barcelona's penalty area, however, and was relatively quiet for the rest of the match.
Mikel Balenziaga - 5/10
Mikel Balenziaga replaced Yuri Berchiche in the first half and had to repel Barcelona's attacks for over an hour. The veteran defender misplaced a few passes and was not at his best against the Catalan giants.
Alex Berenguer - 7/10
Alex Berenguer had only 15 minutes to make an impact and made the most of his opportunity towards the end of the game. The Basque winger pounced on a Lionel Messi pass and set Iker Munian up for Athletic Bilbao's second goal of the game.
Dani Garcia - 5.5/10
Dani Garcia replaced Mikel Vesga in the second half and was booked minutes after his arrival. The midfielder was unable to stem Barcelona's steady passing moves in the final third.
Jon Morcillo - 6/10
Jon Morcillo did have a couple of opportunities to create chances for Athletic Bilbao in the second half but was unable to make much of an impact on the game.