Barcelona will remain in second place in La Liga after a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at Camp NOu, thanks to goals from Paco Alcácer, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal. The Blaugrana were not at their best and suffered against a very tough Bilbao side, but Barça's biggest stars were brilliant when needed and gave the team a vital victory.
From the very start, the Blaugrana played poorly. Bilbao brought the high pressing we have seen from them since last season, and Barça really struggled to deal with the pressure. Gerard Piqué and Samuel Umtiti made uncharacteristic mistakes trying to play out from the back, and Ter Stegen was forced to make some important saves.
Going forward, the Catalans had no impact from the midfield, and only Neymar looked ready to deal with the intensity of Athletic's marking. The Brazilian was fantastic with his dribbling and created a few big chances, one of them being a perfect pass to Paco Alcácer, who scored his first league goal in 10 months to give the Blaugrana the lead.
Five minutes before halftime, Leo Messi added to the lead with a fantastic free kick from an improbable angle that beat Gorka Iraizoz, and at the break it was 2-0 Barça. But they didn't deserve this result. At all.
Barça cleared the mistakes and played a much better second half as a collective group. Nothing special, but just enough to finish the game. Aleix Vidal made a fantastic run into the box and scored a really nice goal with his left foot to kill off the match.
In the end, a very good victory despite a pretty mediocre team performance. But in a season filled with inconsistent performances, these three points are really important.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Vidal (Roberto), Piqué (Mascherano), Umtiti, Mathieu; Rafinha (Rakitic), Gomes, Arda; Messi, Alcácer, Neymar
Goals: Alcácer (18'), Messi (39'), Vidal (67')
Athletic: Iraizoz; De Marcos, Yeray, Laporte, Balenziaga; Lekue (Aduriz), San José (Beñat), Iturraspe, Muniain; Williams, García (Eraso)