FC Barcelona grabbed three of the toughest points the team will earn on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Athletic Club Bilbao at the San Mamés.
Ivan Rakitić grabbed the lone goal of the night in the 21st minute, as a lovely cross into the box by Arda Turan was headed in by the Croatian to make it 1-0.
Luis Suarez had a few chances to increase the lead, but his finish was just not there on the night. Athletic Club continued to press throughout the match, causing a few concerns for Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Lionel Messi had a solid match, as he frustrated Bilbao with his great passes and midfield control.
Beñat nearly had the equalizer in the 86th minute, but his free kick went just right of the near post.
Luis Suarez had a chance to make it 2-0 in stoppage time, but a Bilbao defender was there to make the stop on the goal line.
San Mamés is always a tough place for an opponent to win. On Sunday, FC Barcelona earned the three points win a gritty, physical win on the road.
FT: Athletic Club 0-1 FC Barcelona
Overall, I felt FC Barcelona played well. Was it pretty? No. A match at the San Mamés is never pretty, but these matches and wins that give a team character as well as build confidence for the long season.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen had a good match, overall, against Bilbao. But there were a few mistakes in the game, including a poor pass out which led to Beñat's shot at MAtS from close range in the 12th minute.
Ter Stegen's brilliant save earlier. pic.twitter.com/p3aUyM0xSZ— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) August 28, 2016
MAtS had to make many, many passes on the night. In fact, Ter Stegen became the first goalkeeper to have completed more than 50 passes in a Liga match since the 2005-06 season.
Ter Stegen became the 1st GK completed more than 50 passes in La Liga since the season 2005/2006. pic.twitter.com/vIy5h6m7E7— The Catalan Giant (@TheCataIanGiant) August 28, 2016
Ter Stegen will be just fine. Sure, he had a few hiccups, but overall, MAtS got the shutout and that's all that truly matters.
Sergi Roberto continues to prove he's confidently the team's right back. Sergi's runs and passes were spot on, allowing Messi and Luis Suarez to make runs on the right side. Ivan Rakitić had the lone goal and several key passes against Bilbao. Young Denis Suarez continues to shows signs of future brilliance.
For me, the man of the match was Arda Turan. The Turk continues to shine at the left wing position. No other player in La Liga has been involved in more goals than Arda (3 goals, 3 assists in all competitions). Against Bilbao, Turan was at his best. His passes were on the mark, his playmaking instincts were there, and when the moment came, he was ready to change the game with one play.
With Neymar and Andrés Iniesta returning to the team, Arda will be relegated to the bench. Turan is on fire and it is a shame he'll go back to the bench. Let's see how Neymar plays returning from the Olympics.
If I'm Luis Enrique, I wouldn't hesitate putting Arda Turan into a match in place of Neymar. Left wing is the Brazilian's spot, but when you have a player who's this hot in Arda, it's tough to keep said hot player on the bench for too long. Plus, it'd be wise to ease in Neymar back to the starting XI. Don't be shocked if Neymar does not play a full 90 minutes next match for FC Barcelona. At midfield, Arda struggled last season. At LW this season, it's been nothing but magic for Turan.
Arda Turan at LW has been on fire, and my hope is that Lucho finds a balanced way to keep him hot with sufficient playing time — preferably at LW.
The international break is here, and let's hope the injury bug doesn't bite any Blaugrana player.
One of the toughest road matches all season ends with a win. Two matches in the La Liga season, two wins for FC Barcelona.
A solid start to defending the Liga championship.