Luis Enrique might have a lot of flaws as a coach, but failing to make rotations isn't one of them. The coach has an almost non-negotiable policy when it comes to resting key players, and this game was no different.
Enrique started an odd back-line for the evening that included Vidal and Mathieu on the flanks with Umtiti partnering Gerard Piqué in central defence. In the absence of Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, Andre Gomes and Arda Turan found spots on the starting XI alongside Rafinha in midfield.
However, for the first time, Paco Alcacer would start a game beside Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Would Enrique's squad rotation pay off?
The game began erratically as both teams came close to scoring that elusive opening goal.
A beautiful through ball from Aleix Vidal sent Paco one-on-one with the keeper, but the striker squared the ball to Neymar, who took a second too long on the ball, allowing Bilbao to catch up.
Seconds later, the ball was bouncing off the Barça post, from a Garcia strike. Umtiti was the first to react, and clear the ball out of danger.
Barça's right wing looked extremely dangerous in the early moments. Some great link up between Rafinha, Vidal, and messi meant that the Blaugrana were beating the press efficiently on the right flank.
Athletic Bilbao didn't seem fazed however, as they continued to apply pressure in the middle of the park. Despite some early chances, the home side were unable to keep the Basques at bay, as time and again, Bilbao continued to bypass Barça's midfield with ease—a heavily rotated midfield was partly to blame.
Vidal however, was putting another impressive performance in attack, as the wingback found Neymar on the left flank. The Brazilian would beat his man, and run into a crowded penalty box. Out of nowhere, Paco Alcacer beats his man and runs into space, before using his left foot to finish Neymar's cross under Iraizoz and into the back of the net, from a tight angle.
The Blaugrana looked extremely dangerous in the final third for a brief spell, that involved Lionel Messi twisting and turning around the opposition defence, with purpose and intent—the Argentine wanted more.
After a very sterile spell of play, Barcelona drew a foul on the right flank from an extremely narrow angle. On any given day, that ball plays out as a set-piece—this wasn't just another day.
Lionel Messi stood over the freekick and blasted it with the slightest of curves at the far-post, catching Iraizoz off guard. The Basque positioned himself well, but Messi's magic was too much to contain.
Minutes later, the referee blew his whistle for half-time.
The game began with a change from the Blaugrana as Javier Mascherano replaced Gerard Pique in the heart of defence, as the Spanish international was taken off for precautionary reasons.
The early moments post-break involved some good movement from Barça in the opposition third. In a dangerous play, Rafinha would come close to scoring the third of the night, as he nearly put Arda Turan's cross into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the Catalans, Rafinha (who had so far been the best midfielder for Barcelona), received a blow to the face in his own box, after some shoving, which left the energetic midfielder with a graphic injury.
Fortunately, the injury is probably not as bad as it looked at first glance.
However, the player needed to be taken off after receiving some treatment behind the goal — Ivan Rakitic was the choice for the night.
Just when things were starting to look dangerous, Luis Enrique took Lionel Messi off for Sergi Roberto, at the 60th minute.
Shortly after the substitution, Aleix Vidal, who had stepped into Messi's vacant spot, went on a pace-y run, before bypassing the away defence and slotting in a left-footed strike at the far post, from a tight angle.
After what had been a very chaotic game in the opening 45 minutes, the Blaugrana were firmly in control for the rest of the game, keeping possession, pressing well, and tiring out the opposition with good passes.
Despite some complaints, most fans would have left the Camp Nou with a smile on their face even with the questionable style of play, when the referee blew his three pips.
A tough match, and some hard-earned 3 points mean that the Blaugrana are still in the race to defend their La Liga crown.
Despite a mediocre showing for a majority of the game, the positives from the game outweigh the negatives in abundance.
The likes of Rakitic, Alba, Messi, Suarez and Mascherano received some necessary rest, while the squad players put in promising performances against one of the toughest opponents in spain.
It seems like Barcelona is back to it's winning ways after the mishap at Real Betis, which can only be good news for the Catalans.
Onward and upward!