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Barcelona’s French connection tames the Lions

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Magnificent performance

FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The quality of that match from Barcelona’s point of view can be measured by the fact that in the immediate aftermath, no one really cared how much Lionel Messi was earning, or has reportedly earned.

Most would say he’s worth every penny but that’s a discussion for another day. His perfect free-kick was enough to stick it to those that had had a field day on Sunday once the El Mundo headlines had broke. Six hundred and fifty and counting.

No, this was Barca back to somewhere approaching their best for the most part, and against an overly physical Athletic Club to boot, let’s not forget.

It was great to see the blaugranes getting their foot in on occasion and not letting Los Leones have it all their own way in that regard.

Ronald Koeman won’t have been too happy with the regularity that the visitors broke down Barca’s right-hand side, and in a more unfamiliar role than usual, Oscar Mingueza was found wanting.

His defending, however, like his colleagues, at least had purpose, and he’ll learn from having to take such a battering should he need to deputise for Sergino Dest again.

Barca certainly deserved the win on the night, and that they got it was due in no small part to the contributions of Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

I’d even venture to suggest that this was Dembele’s best performance in a Barca shirt to date. He was everywhere.

A constant threat down the channels, a whisker away on a few occasions from getting a goal, and the type of defending that has rarely been seen from him.

Ditto Griezmann. We’ve come to understand just how hard he works for the team, whether or not he finds himself on the scoresheet, and when he finishes like he did on Sunday, he is sublime. Mingueza gets kudos for a beautiful cross too.

Griezmann’s work-rate was tremendous, his passing spot on in the main and, the goal that takes Barca above Real Madrid in the table is very sweet indeed.

Samuel Umtiti arguably deserves a mention too. Never the quickest of players, he was able to use his defensive nous to combat the incisive Inaki Williams.

Athletic look a different proposition under Marcelino, and there’ll not be too many teams that will repel their incessant running, breaking from deep and physical capabilities.

Make no mistake, this is a very well won three points indeed.