Barcelona continued their perfect start to the La Liga season after a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés. It was a difficult game but the Blaugrana were more efficient than the hosts and left the Basque Country with a key victory. Here's a few takeaways from what we saw on Sunday:
1 - Luis Enrique is a great manager
Apart from a few mistakes here and there, Lucho always has a great gameplan for every match, especially the tough ones. Sunday was a perfect example: he learned from previous games that Bilbao press high up the pitch for 90 minutes at home, and Enrique found a way to maintain possession and initiate play with clean passes. His goalkeeper and center-backs needed to have a great night on the ball, and the midfielders and attackers needed to be quick to run at Ahtletic's defense and create chances on the counter. It worked to perfection, and Barça deserved the win they got because of how they were set up tactically by the manager.
Luis Enrique became the fastest manager in Barça history to reach 100 wins, doing it in 126 games. You can't have a record like that just because of the players. You need to be good at coaching them. Luis Enrique is.
2 - Ter Stegen's confidence is unbreakable
As said above, the German was going to be a key piece of the scheme. With Athletic pressing high, only Stegen would be "free" to receive and make passes, and his distribution would be fundamental to execute Lucho's gameplan. MATS was simply amazing on the ball. He completed more passes than 16 of the 22 players on the pitch, and apart from one big mistake — which he eventually saved —, Ter Stegen was perfect. He just doesn't care about the pressure of it being San Mamés, having the ball a lot and needing to play well to help the team win.
Stegen is the real deal. He needed a big performance to show he can start every game. He saved shots and passed the ball like a boss all night, and he proved himself once again. We got a damn good goalkeeper, y'all.
3 - Squad depth is real
Think about it: if Mascherano was on the bench and Neymar could not play last season, Luis Enrique would have started Mathieu at center-back (which... yeah), Arda Turan in central midfield (which he is bad at), and Munir El-Haddadi (was still too unexperienced last season, especially for San Mamés) on the wing. On Sunday, he had Sammy Umtiti on defense (another monster game), Denis Suarez in midfield (SO GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!) and Arda Turan on the wing (fantastic again). And then he brought Mascherano, André Gomes and Rafinha off the bench.
Now Paco Alcácer is set to join, Neymar and Iniesta will come back, and it just seems like Barça can have a strong starting lineup and strong bench for every single game throughout the season. Which is insane. Which is amazing.