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Messi masterclass underscores Barcelona’s best

Pedri and Dembele on fire at San Mames

Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Once Inaki Williams went waltzing through the Barça defence as though he was skipping through the meadow and enjoying the daisies, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was going to be another one of those days under Ronald Koeman.

Credit where it’s due, however, because by half-time it was probably the Blaugranes’ best 45 minutes of the season.

After their initial burst, Athletic appeared to be a team that were still trying to work out their formation and game plan under a new manager.

There were a few flashes but in the main they were a distant second best, a pattern that continued in the second half.

It was no surprise that both Lionel Messi and Pedri were the protagonists, the association between the pair getting better game by game.

Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Though the youngster has already been drawn into the habit of looking for Leo first and foremost, his abundance of skill means that, more often than not, he finds him.

His one-two was exquisite, and Messi’s face told its own story. He knows that at least he has one other player absolutely on his wavelength other than Jordi Alba!

Ousmane Dembele, though wasteful at times, deserves the plaudits too. We saw the best and worst of him before the half-time whistle and if only he could finish, Barça may have been more than one goal to the good in the early stages.

As frustrating as he can be, tell me that there’s not a moment of anticipation every time he gets the ball. If Koeman can finally buff up the rough edges, we have still got one hell of a player.

Frenkie de Jong had one of his best games for a while too. The Dutchman has flattered to deceive in a number of matches, though the same could be attributed to a positional switch.


In his more natural role, he was purposeful, eager and generally timed his runs to perfection.

Aside from Antoine Griezmann - the less said about the Frenchman the better, the assist for Messi’s second and a brief flash or two notwithstanding - perhaps the one area that continues to need attention is defence.

Araujo can be forgiven for playing the high line for the goal, but there’s no excuse for Lenglet’s attempt at a tackle. What the hell was that?

On another night against a different opponent it could’ve been an entirely different story, but for all intents and purposes, it was a fantastic win at a difficult ground, and it keeps the unbeaten run going, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Third place in the table and all in all, a very satisfactory 90 minutes. We move.

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