Ousmane Dembele shone in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Athletic Club. Xavi’s side are three points behind leaders Real Madrid.
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Dembele led the show after assisting three goals and scoring once at the Camp Nou. Robert Lewandowski, Ferran Torres and Sergi Roberto were all on the scorer list.
Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde’s return to Barcelona has soured and despite his team sitting 6th in the table, they are without a win in the last four games.
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1. Barca beat Athletic to stay on Madrid’s heels
Barcelona have regained their goalscoring abilities but it will probably be too late to salvage their Champions League campaign. After scoring three first-half goals in Thursday’s win over Villarreal, they repeated the feat on Sunday at the Camp Nou against Athletic Bilbao. Then they upped the ante and added a fourth after the break.
Xavi Hernandez tinkered with his squad again, opting for four midfielders and bringing Dembele back with Ansu Fati and Torres among the players missing. The result was devastating; not disturbing. Within 22 minutes, Barca scored three goals, one each for Dembele, Roberto and Lewandowski, who now has 17 this season. Torres completed the goal off the bench in the second half.
It’s been just a week since a loss to Real Madrid prompted Xavi to lament Barca’s ‘bad run’. They had scored just once in victories against Mallorca and Celta Vigo, clinching one point from six against Inter Milan before losing classic at the Santiago Bernabeu. Now things are looking rosier again. They remain just three points behind Madrid at the top of LaLiga and look in fine form for Wednesday’s game against Bayern Munich.
The bad news, however, is that they are no longer on their own in the Champions League. Even if they beat Bayern 10-0, if Inter beat Viktoria Pilsen on the same day, they’ll be bumped into the Europa League.
2. Dembele excels with a goal and a hat-trick of assists
One of the loudest cheers of the evening was reserved for Dembele, who scored the opening goal and then set up the other three goals. He received a standing ovation when he was sent off for teenager Pablo Torre, who was unveiled for his LaLiga debut.
There was a feeling that Dembele needed a performance like this. It has always been clear that he is part of Xavi’s first-choice attack along with Lewandowski. However, recent ads had started to cast some doubts about it. Or at least put some pressure on the French striker. Even Xavi said his decision making needs to improve lately.
It certainly improved against Athletic. His goal – his first-ever header in Barca colors – paved the way for the tussle as he hit Roberto, Lewandowski and Torres to end the defeat. He has four goals and seven assists in all competitions this season and could be unplayable in this form.
3. Valverde’s miserable Camp Nou return
Ernesto Valverde won LaLiga twice during his tenure as Barcelona manager before being sacked by LaLiga top management in 2019. They haven’t won the title since then. He could have been forgiven for wanting to make an impression on his first professional trip back to the Camp Nou since his sacking, but any hopes of doing so were quickly dashed.
The smile he wore on his face as he greeted Xavi Hernandez before the game didn’t last long as his team was torn apart. After a brilliant start to the season, which saw Athletic temporarily move up to third place, they are now four games without a win. A tricky series of games against Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Barca has only yielded two points. There’s nothing to worry about just yet and there’s still a feel-good factor about Valverde’s return as manager at San Mames, but a win to calm nerves soon would be welcome in Bilbao.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Roberto 8, Kounde 7, Garcia 6, Balde 8; 6 Busquets, 7 De Jong, 6 Gavi, 7 Pedri; Dembélé 9, Lewandowski 7
Subtitle: Kessie 6, Ansu 6, Torres 7, Alonso 6, Torre 6
sports club: Simon 5; 4 De Marcos, 5 Alvarez, 5 Martinez, 4 Yuri; Herrera 5, Vesga 5; Nico Williams 6, Zarraga 5, Berenguer 5; Inaki Williams5
Subtitle: Dani Garcia 4, Lekue 6, Sancet 6, Raul Garcia 5, Vencedor 5
Best and worst performers
BEST: Dembélé, Barcelona.
Dembele was involved in all three goals so he’s the standout candidate but also a word for left-back Alejandro Balde. The 19-year-old is getting better and better. Could he still force Luis Enrique to consider him for the World Cup?
WORST: Oscar De Marcos, Athletic.
The entire Athletic back four struggled, especially in the first half. Yuri Berchiche got a hot time from Dembele which might be expected. What wasn’t expected was that Balde made De Marcos look like an amateur. Valverde pulled him back after an hour.
Highlights and notable moments
Dembele’s 12th-minute header gave Barcelona an early lead.
Lewandowski ➡️ Dembele gives Barca a 1-0 lead 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Mmg7k7EOlO
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 23, 2022
Dembele and Lewandowski scored Barcelona’s third goal together in just 22 minutes.
THE RUN OF DEMBELE. THE FINISH FROM LEWA. WHAT A GOAL 😳 pic.twitter.com/wZcjWnDbBM
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 23, 2022
After the game: what the managers, players said
Athletic’s Ernesto Valverde: “We weren’t close to winning, that’s clear. Barça were strong. We tried to push up at the beginning. They played it through well and punished us. Three goals in 10 minutes. The second kills us a bit. ” I was surprised by Barca’s system of playing with four midfielders and opening the field with Balde and Dembele. It surprised us a little.”
Barcelona’s Xavi: “We expected a game with a lot of intensity, played at a high rhythm. We knew they were going to press high, so we used another midfielder to outplay them in the middle. We wanted an extra man in midfield . However, I think the key was that we were able to match them in intensity. Dembele was good too, he made the difference. The team understood what was needed. At half-time it was practically over.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Sergi Roberto: 4 LaLiga goals in the last 2 seasons (3 in the last 10 seasons combined)
– Ousmane Dembele’s header was the second of his club career and the first since February 18, 2017.
– Dembele is the only player from Europe’s top five leagues with at least 15 assists in calendar year 2022, alongside Lionel Messi (19) and Kevin De Bruyne (16).
– Dembele: first Barcelona player with 3 assists and a goal in a LaLiga game since Luis Suarez on December 21, 2019.
– Robert Lewandowski: 12 La Liga goals this season. Memphis Depay led all Barcelona players with 12 goals in LaLiga last season.
– Barcelona: His 3 goals is the most in a LaLiga game in the first half against Athletic since 2012. Back then, Pique, Messi and Adriano scored 3 goals in the first half in a 5-1 win.
Barcelona: Xavi’s men face a competitive Champions League game against Bayern Munich on October 26, followed by a La Liga game against Valencia on October 29 and the final game of the Champions League group stage on November 1 against Viktoria Pilsen. Barca’s squad hopes of qualifying for the UCL knockout stage hang in the balance as they face relegation to the Europa League for the second straight season.
sports club: Athletic next meet Villarreal on October 30, followed by a visit to 17th-placed Girona on November 4 and a home game against Valladolid.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-match/story/4779410/ousmane-dembele-ran-the-show-as-barcelona-score-four-against-athletic Ousmane Dembele ran the show as Barcelona score four against Athletic