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LaLiga 2019-20: 5 talking points from Athletic Bilbao's 1-0 win over Barcelona

Parth Athale
ANALYST
Feature
17 Aug 2019, 02:51 IST

The game was closely contested by either side
The game was closely contested by either side

Barcelona faced early misery at the San Mames as they lost 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao in their first LaLiga match of the season.

The team news was headlined by the absence of Lionel Messi heading into the game. Messi was not in the Barcelona squad due to a calf problem. The Argentine has not featured for his club after he represented his country in the Copa America this summer.

Philippe Coutinho was also not in the lineup as he is rumored to be on his way to Bayern Munich on a loan move.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Most other players lined up, and that led to an exciting encounter. The first half was dominated by the home side and they had the better chances. But neither side could convert, and the game was goalless at the interval.

An injury to Luis Suarez forced him off and Rafinha came on in his absence.

The second half saw more of the same, as the game was devoid of clear chances. Bilbao dropped deep, Ernesto Valverde made his substitutions, but to no avail.

But as it turned out, it was Gaizka Garitano whose changes made the impact. On came veteran striker Aritz Aduriz, and he sealed the win for Bilbao with a stunning overhead kick in the dying moments. It was a goal to remember for the 38-year-old.

Aduriz made sure that Barcelona started the season in the worst possible way while sending the home crowd into raptures. Here are the talking points from the encounter.

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#5 Messi's absence was felt in a drab Barca display

Barca's performance will worry Valverde
Barca's performance will worry Valverde

It's a new season, but the Barcelona display was eerily similar to those from last season. They had too much possession, but too little threat to the opposition goal. Barcelona took 11 shots in the match, but only two of those were on target. They failed to carve out big chances and offered little threat in Bilbao's box.

One of the main reasons for this was the absence of Lionel Messi. The skipper is hugely important to this side, and his absence was felt keenly. The likes of Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann failed to make an impact when the onus was on them.

Ernesto Valverde will be concerned about how toothless his side looked in attack. They have Messi to call upon when he returns, but the lack of a plan B is jarring.

Maybe Messi will be enough to silence the doubts, but there's a significant chance that he won't. If that is the case, then Valverde will certainly be in trouble.

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