Barcelona ratings as Messi is super sub but Pique has another howler

Chris Bailey 20:28 29/09/2018
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Lionel Messi rode to the rescue, but the job was a patch-up rather than a full recovery as Barcelona could only draw 1-1 with Athetic Bilbao at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

Athletic were the better side in the first half and duly got their reward when Oscar De Marcos exploited some pathetic Barca defending.

Ernesto Valverde called on Messi and Sergio Busquets early in the second half, who were both benched with the huge Champions League clash away to Tottenham in mind, and their introduction helped kick-start the moribund Blaugrana.

Messi, predictably, was sensational but his assist for Munir El Haddadi is all that Barca could muster as they picked up a disappointing draw on the back of their shock midweek defeat by minnows Leganes.

Below are our Barca ratings …

BARCELONA (4-3-3)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Had next to nothing to do but pick the ball up out of the back of the net. 6

Nelson Semedo – When Barcelona needed a recovery tackle, Semedo was there. Made a great tackle on Williams and was aggressive going forward too with Dembele ahead of him. 7

Gerard Pique – Currently performing like he’s never played at centre-back before. Left De Marcos a full yard onside for the goal and had a torrid time coping with Inaki Williams. Is lucky that Samuel Umtiti is injured. 3

Clement Lenglet – Looked like the senior partner of Pique and at the very least, fared better than the red card he received on full debut against Girona last week. Steady. 6

Jordi Alba – While Pique was the main culprit for Bilbao’s goal, Alba decided to fling his arm up and appeal for offside while De Marcos hooked home. Semedo’s arguably the best full-back at the club on recent form. 4

Arturo Vidal – Made a goal-line block and one pass he made was begging for a finish from Suarez. The fall guy for Lionel Messi early in the second half but his performance was good under the circumstances. 7

Sergi Roberto – Yanked off with just 50 minutes played having made minimal impact in centre midfield. Not the creative outlet that Barca were crying out for in first half.

Ivan Rakitic – Sub-par performance and looked lost without usual partner Sergio Busquets alongside him. Took one shot on when Roberto was in space a few yards to his right – uncharacteristically rushed. Had a decent chance to win it at the death, too. 4

Ousmane Dembele – Anonymous before the break but came alive with two rampaging runs, one which found Coutinho before the Brazilian’s volley found the woodwork. 6

Luis Suarez – Kept dropping deep and finding pockets of space, and was at his liveliest for a while. Went close on a few occasions, including a super free-kick, though should have scored when Vidal put him through in the first half. 8

Philippe Coutinho – Failed to fill the vacuum Messi left. Weak header from Suarez’s cross, though his volley into the ground later on needed the upright to keep it out. 5

SUBSTITUTES

Lionel Messi – If there was any doubt left whatsoever that Barcelona enhances Messi, and not the other way round, it was eviscerated on Saturday night. Barcelona were bereft of ideas before the Argentine’s whirlwind feet and clairvoyant vision entered the fray. Hit the bar with a volley before salvaging a point after gifting Munir a sitter. 9

Sergio Busquets – Barca were all at sea in midfield but Busquets helped them drop anchor – and most importantly allowed Messi to do his thing. 7

Munir El Haddadi – Right place, right time – and that’s you want from a striker desperately thrown on at the death. There’s something to admire about a striker who is unafraid of the six yard box. 7

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