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Dazzling Dembele and brilliant Balde are Barcelona’s best on a night to remember

Superb showing

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

Sunday night’s game showed the side of Ousmane Dembele that every Barcelona supporter knows is there, but isn’t seen as often as they might like.

It’s infuriating to a point because if he could put in a performance of that quality most weeks, there would be no doubting his world-class pedigree.

The Frenchman genuinely has it all, but more often than not he doesn’t make the most of his enviable talents.

On the evidence of what was seen against Athletic Club, it’s no wonder that Xavi sung his praises so consistently, when all around him were doing precisely the opposite.

Ernesto Valverde won’t have enjoyed his foray back to Camp Nou because his lions were more like lambs to the slaughter.

FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

In the first half particularly they offered nothing in an attacking sense, and the visitors’ lack of purpose meant that they became cannon fodder for Dembele.

Each time the ball found the Frenchman out wide he appeared to be in acres of space, and the collective intake of breath from the Camp Nou was audible.

The culers expected and, on this occasion, Dembele duly delivered.

A towering header - not normally his forte - as well as three great assists was a fine return, and he had the locals in rapture before the half hour.

Another speedster who certainly deserves to take the plaudits on the night is Alejandro Balde. Sunday’s showing was his best performance in a Barca shirt by a distance.

A relatively comfortable first half notwithstanding, Balde provided a willing and able outlet for Barca’s attacks on the opposite flank.

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

For a while now there have been genuine question marks as to whether the left-back berth was a poisoned chalice. Were the club ever going to find a player to be able to pick up the baton from Jordi Alba and run with it?

Until now the answer had been a resounding no, however, Balde is beginning to cement his place in the backline.

Importantly, his defensive attributes are beginning to show through because his ability to supplement the attack is not in question.

There are genuine claims for him to be the regular starter in the position now, given that it seems that Alba’s Barca career is going in the opposite direction to the youngster and Marcos Alonso is far too slow down the left channel.

Whether or not this does become the breakout season for him will be seen in due course, but there can be little doubt that he’ll soon become a permanent fixture.

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