It was not really a dream start for Barcelona as they raised the curtain of the new 2019/20 La Liga season at San Mames against Athletic Bilbao. After 90 minutes of struggle and one Aritz Aduriz wonder goal, the Catalans saw themselves open the new campaign with a defeat. But what exactly can we extract from their trip to the Basque land? Here are three things we learned at the weekend.
Two Barcelona players made their La Liga debuts in their new Blaugrana colours at San Mames: Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann. Both players started and finished the game but couldn’t really push the outcome in Barcelona’s favour. they will both need some time to gel with the new squad and Ernesto Valverde will have to find a way to make their transitions as smooth as possible.
Griezmann only made 33 touches on the night with only seven being inside the box and one just on the edge of it. He also registered three shots but none were on target. De Jong, on the other hand, was one of the higher-rated players on the pitch but was unable to dictate the tempo like he usually does despite maintaining 93.9% passing accuracy.
There were some promising signs but a lot more will be expected from the duo in the future.
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Barcelona have a bad record at San Mames, that much is becoming pretty obvious. Overall, they’ve played a total of 89 games there and have only won 26. In fact, their last two outings there, once now in 2019/20 and once in 2018/19, have resulted in a draw and a defeat. The Basques seem to have the Catalans’ number and they’re enjoying having them as guests at San Mames.
Not to mention that Barcelona’s goal difference there is -36, meaning that not only do they rarely win but they have trouble keeping up with their hosts in their backyard when it comes to scoring, something they are usually quite good at.
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When there is no Lionel Messi for Barcelona, they simply look like a different team altogether. But while that may not be such a surprise considering Messi’s pedigree, seeing Barcelona struggle so much without him could spell trouble for Valverde. One thing is to miss Messi but to completely depend on him is very much a different and bigger problem.
The little Argentine scored in seven of the last nine opening games in La Liga, tallying a ridiculous 14 goals in the process. It’s difficult not to miss such a huge presence on the pitch, that much is obvious, but Barcelona looked like a team out of sorts and out of ideas – managing only two shots on target.