Barcelona continued their fine run of form with a convincing 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao
The Catalans continued their push to close the gap to Real Madrid and are now only 1 point behind the league leaders, although Los Blancos do have two games in hand. Barcelona also moved into 2nd position ahead of Sevilla, who have one game in hand.
Paco Alcacer scored his first goal for Barcelona after being handed a rare start before Lionel Messi scored yet another free-kick to double Barcelona’s lead. Aleix Vidal, who made only his fourth start in the league for the Catalans, wrapped things up with a brilliant solo goal.
Luis Enrique had rested several key players for the tie and handed chances to the likes of Alcacer and Vidal who did not disappoint. Speaking after the game, Enrique was full of praise for his squad players.
“First and foremost, it is important to realise that to reach our three objectives we need the whole squad,” said Enrique in the post-match conference. “Today a lot of players who haven’t had a lot of minutes took part and showed what they can do.”
“We were able to give a rest to some because, without that, it is impossible to compete at 100 percent with all the games we have coming up. We’ve won three marvellous points.”
There were two negatives on an otherwise happy night for Barcelona, however, as Gerard Pique limped off at half-time and Rafinha had to be replaced after taking a blow to the head. Enrique confirmed after the game that Pique had suffered an unspecified strain and was replaced as a precaution.
However, he did say that he was unsure if the duo would be fit for Barca’s Copa Del Rey fixture against Atletico Madrid.
“Gerard’s problem is a strain so we decided not to take any risks. It is clearly the fruit of the calendar we have and the number of minutes he has had to play. Rafa’s is a knock. He has a deep cut and we had to replace him. I don’t know if I will able to count on them (for Tuesday). We will see how they go in training tomorrow and the day after.”
Despite the injuries, this was an encouraging display from all of Enrique’s players and Barcelona definitely look to be growing in confidence. Enrique’s squad have proven that they can be relied on when called upon. Barcelona are starting to look unstoppable once again and Real Madrid will be feeling pressure given their poor recent form.