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Athletic Club – FC Barcelona

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Athletic Club – FC Barcelona

‘I appreciate but not’. Like Alejandro Sanz, Barça declined Real Madrid’s invitation to reopen the fight for the League title. A disappointing game for the culés, diminished by the injuries of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, stopped short the good feelings of the current champion, who at no time found a way to get his hands on an orderly Basque defense. Without a goal or chances, Xavi’s team will continue one more day eight points behind Real Madrid and, what is worse, they once again show a lack of football in important matches.

If there was a League for Barça, it meant winning no matter what in San Mamés, a place where the Blaugranas have been kneeling so many times in recent years in the Copa del Rey. Real Madrid’s tie and the possibility of overtaking a stranded Girona forced Xavi’s men to come out and bite. To jump onto the grass with the knife between his teeth.

With Cubarsí but without Lamine, who gave his place to Raphinha, the coach continued the drawing with four midfielders. The objective, to find the spaces to punish a team with an emotional hangover after reaching the ticket for the cup final on Thursday.

Cancelo was the first to try it with several deep forays. Christensen, with his head, finished off a Gündogan cross. Barça’s first quarter of an hour was remarkablemore for the omission of errors than for any kind of brilliance.

Frenkie de Jong, KO in the ankle

In fact, the only bad thing that happened to the Catalans in the first half hour was the injury to Frenkie de Jong, who had to retire after suffering a spectacular sprained ankle. Fermín came in for him and it was precisely the Huelva native who created the best chance of the first half. The ’16’ tried to beat Unai Simón who left his area at the first touch, The rebound fell to Cancelo and the Portuguese’s shot from 40 meters was miraculously saved between Yeray and the goal.

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In the last part of the first half, Valverde’s men took a step forward and blurred Barça. The culés’ possessions were increasingly shorter and Xavi’s desperation grew in the band. Just before the break, another splash of cold water in the form of an injury. Pedri, KO again, asked for a change through tears.

The restart didn’t change anything. What’s more, it accentuated the upward trend of the locals. Iñaki Williams tried his luck but couldn’t find a goal. Right after, Unai Gómez also shot without luck. Xavi had only one change window left, so he had to measure with surgical precision when and which chips to touch.

Incapable of disturbing Athletic

Berenguer put Kounde in trouble and San Mamés came forward, aware that Barça was beginning to suffer more than necessary. The challenge was an opportunity for the Blaugranas but at times it seemed that Valverde’s team was the one most in need. A very long possession that ended with Paredes avoiding Lewandowski’s shot meant the first sign of improvement for the current champion. There was half an hour left and the tension rose as the temperature dropped in Bilbao.

Xavi placed Raphinha inside, close to Lewandowski, but the first 20 minutes of the second half showed that the experiment was not working. Parallel, Athletic believed more and more and ‘Txingurri’ brought in Sancet. Even more difficult for Barça.

In one of the few transitions that the Barça team was able to put together, Lamine fell inside the area and Barça claimed a penalty that did not exist. Xavi, increasingly nervous, couldn’t believe it. Parallel, the game became a street runner with a premise that seemed irrefutable. The first to hit would get the upper hand.

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The epic did not appear this time

The Barça coach took a gamble in the last quarter of an hour. Íñigo, Romeu and Joao Félix were his last three choices with the aim of resurrecting a team that was flirting with disaster. The minutes passed as if Barça’s moment had to come, but Time was running out and Xavi’s team still did not generate a single scoring chance in the second half. Minute 80 and going up. LaLiga was leaving.

Only the epic remained. The same one that saved the team in San Sebastián or Gran Canaria. This would not appear in Bilbao. Real Madrid opened the door of hope but Barça’s more than disappointing match in Bilbao leaves the championship a clear white again.

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