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From The Mind of Xoel: Barça Look Lost and Lose in Bilbao

Athletic Club gave FC Barcelona their first loss of El Blaugrana's 2013-14 La Liga campaign as the Basque Country club won 1-0 on Sunday night at the new San Mamés. In this article, Xoel Càrdenas gives you his take on the game, Tata Martino's troubles, and Barça's increasing need to sign a player in January.

David Ramos

FC Barcelona suffered their first loss of their 2013-14 La Liga season as the Catalans were defeated 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao at the new San Mames on Sunday night.

Neymar had the first good chance in the 12th minute as his shot inside the box was nicely saved by Iraizoz. A minute later, Andres Iniesta's shot was close, but wide right. Andres had a good chance in the 25th minute, but Iraizoz was able to stand his ground and keep it scoreless. Jose Manuel Pinto made a big save in the 29th minute as a free kick for Bilbao lead to a scramble inside the box, but Pinto was there to grab the ball and stop the Bilbao threat.

In the second half, Neymar had a good chance in the 49th minute, but he was unable to control the ball and shoot. A bad non-call occurred in the 57th minute as a Bilbao turnover led to Neymar breaking away toward goal. Neymar was taken down by Iturraspe just outside the box, but the referee only gave a yellow card when it clearly was a last man red card that should have been given. Iker Muniain gave the home side the lead in the 70th minute as a nice pass by Susaeta led to Iker's game-winning goal.

Let's get to the Best, Worst, and What We Learned from this game.

The Best: Martin Montoya and Jose Manuel Pinto

It's sad that Martin Montoya has to be "The Best" of this game. I mean no disrespect by that statement. It's just that Montoya should not be the best part of a Barcelona game. That means the offense and midfield were bad-and they were. Martin had two great runs at the Bilbao goal. Jose Manuel Pinto had a good game, overall. There was nothing Pinto could do about Muniain's goal, but J.M.P. had good save throughout the game, including a great save on a Bilbao header soon after the Muniain goal.

The Worst: Tata Martino's game plan

Honestly, I don't know what Tata Martino was thinking about for this game when it came to his game plan. I know it's the players that do all the work, but it's the manager that puts together, and leads the team with their game plan. Tata got it wrong by starting Gerard Piqué at CB for this game. Marc Bartra is quicker and, by the way, has been the best CB for this team this season, and he deserved to start against a speedy Athletic Club.

Xavi should have been on the bench for this game. He looked tired, and was/is clearly not one hundred percent. If Tata keeps thinning-out his midfield by playing Xavi, Cesc, and Andres together more and more, all three midfielders will begin to wear down by March. Tata has to give Sergi Roberto more time. Sergi needs it, and all the other midfielders need the kid to give them rest. As for Neymar, he tried but his performance was not enough. A bit disappointed with the kid with his performance on Sunday.

Tata Martino has a bit of football soul-searching to do in the next few days.

Barcelona looked sluggish, uncreative, and deserved to lose. I'm sorry, but it can't just be all about Lionel Messi not being there. That excuse is really getting old. Yes, he's the best footballer in the world, but this team is talented enough to win (or at least tie) without Leo playing. The players needed to step up, but Tata hasn't game-planned well for two consecutive games as well.

Step it up, Tata.

What We Learned?: Barcelona absolutely need to make a move in January.

Before the season started, I did not expect FC Barcelona making any moves in the January transfer window. But with all the injuries, plus the poor play as of late, I believe Sandro Rosell has to sign at least one player this winter. So who will it be? Who knows. But something has to be done to help this team. This team's depth is thinner than we thought, and as much as I love the Barça B kids, they are mostly not ready to play 60+ minutes in Liga or CL games.

Cesc Fabregas is a great midfielder, but I'm sorry, he's not good as the "False 9" for FC Barcelona. He's good with the Spanish National Team, but this team needs another player to play that position whenever Messi is out. I wouldn't be shocked if Tata goes with Neymar at the CF spot with Pedro on the LW and Alexis at the RW spot for the next game.

Perhaps Rosell makes a few phone calls to see if a CF/ST is available. As I said in my article last week, Barcelona needs to look for a back-up CF/ST. Of course the defense needs help as well-especially with Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano's inconsistent play. But signing a defender may cost Barcelona quite a bit, the player may be cup-tied (not allowing him to play in the Champions League) and it could cause issues with Marc Bartra's contract negotiations. But if a defender is available, I'm sure Rosell will at least take a look at his options.

What's Next?: Friday at Cartagena

Barcelona will start their 2013-14 Copa del Rey campaign on Friday as they take on Cartagena. Don't be surprised if Tata Martino uses this game to rest a few players against a weaker opponent. Cristian Tello should start, if healthy. Sergi Roberto would be a wise choice to start to give Cesc, Xavi and/or Iniesta a well-deserved rest. Alex Song will more than likely start as well.

Xoel's Final Word

It was a tough evening for FC Barcelona as they suffered their first loss of the La Liga season as they lost 1-0 to Athletic Club on Sunday. With the loss, Barcelona is now tied with Atletico Madrid with 40 points atop of the Liga table. Due to goal differential, Barça is still leading the Liga.

Two losses within one week.

Now the focus turns to the Copa del Rey, and a trip to Cartagena. It's the perfect time for this team to rise up.

Everyone gets knocked down once in a while. But only champions know how to get up, dust themselves off, and fight back stronger than ever. Time to do that, FC Barcelona.


Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona

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