LaLiga 2019-20: 3 reasons Barcelona lost against Athletic Bilbao
Let's address the elephant in the room, Barcelona aren't the same without Lionel Messi. With the Argentine missing due to injury at the start of the season, the Catalan side were forced to start their campaign without him in the starting XI.
A team that started off with Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, and Ousmane Dembele as the front three of a 4-3-3 would've expected to make at least a dent in this Athletic Bilbao side even without Messi. A 1-0 scoreline in favour of the hosts is not what most fans expected from the night, but here we stand with the unexpected becoming reality.
What's even more bizarre is that the single goal that Athletic Bilbao scored came from a bicycle kick pulled off by a 38-year-old striker in the 88th minute, having barely spent over a minute on the pitch.
On a night that so much went wrong for Barcelona, there were three major reasons for their failure that stood out.
Lack of team chemistry
The XI that started the game for Barcelona weren't their usual players. Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong were making their professional debuts for the club. The Dutch midfielder's partners in midfield were Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto, it was a combination gracing the La Liga for the first time, and it showed.
They're professionals who were given a brief by Ernesto Valverde and should've followed it as practised, but it didn't quite work out as planned. On a night when Sergio Busquets was benched to bring in de Jong, Rakitic came on only at half-time, and Suarez limped off with an injury in the first half, none of the factors played in Barca's favour.
The passes they made or tried to make from midfield just didn't seem to find their intended targets. Griezmann and Dembele were frozen out of the game for long periods due to Athletic's effective defending, and they managed to keep Alba and Semedo from impacting too much past the halfway line as well.
None of Barca's well-laid plans was panning out, and usually, when the chemistry isn't quite right, Barcelona rely on magic, but the magician wasn't on the pitch tonight.