Ousmane Dembele registered three assists during a scintillating performance as Barcelona cruised to victory against Athletic Bilbao.
Ousmane Dembele scored and assisted three others as Barcelona warmed up for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich by thrashing Athletic Bilbao 4-0 at Camp Nou.
Xavi’s side raced into a three-goal lead before half-time in Thursday’s mauling of Villarreal and repeated the trick on Sunday as Sergi Roberto and Robert Lewandowski joined Dembele on the scoresheet in the space of 22 minutes.
After setting up Roberto and Lewandowski, Dembele continued to terrorize Athletic after the break and helped Barca add some gloss when he teed up Ferran Torres for a fine finish late on.
The result moved Barca back to within three points of leaders Real Madrid in LaLiga, with Los Blancos moving clear with a 3-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.
Dembele opened the scoring after 12 minutes, testing Unai Simon before nodding in Lewandowski’s cross after the striker recycled a loose ball.
Barca’s second was more fortunate, coming when Roberto’s shot went wide of Simon from a tight angle after Dembele’s through ball.
Dembele played his part again in Barca’s third as Athletic broke down and drove inside from the right to feed Lewandowski who turned and latched onto the roof of the net.
Barca suffered a blow when Gavi limped off after a collision with Dani Garcia before the break, but they almost grabbed a fourth goal when Garcia’s pass caught Pedri and hit the post.
Dembele showed his creative qualities again when Barca completed the drive in the 73rd minute, drilling a low pass to Torres, who moved the ball onto his right foot and finished coolly.
But just as Gavi’s injury soured Barcelona’s first half, an injury to Roberto did the same in the closing stages. An awkward landing for the Spaniard saw him leave the field clutching his shoulder in serious discomfort, forcing the hosts to see out proceedings with ten players.
Still though, confidence has been rebuilt, following the damage done in losses to Inter and Real Madrid. Barcelona will need much more than confidence, though, when they welcome Bayern Munich to the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Barcelona player ratings vs Athletic Club – La Liga
1. Barcelona (4-2-3-1)
GK: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – 5/10 – Having done virtually nothing all night, the German nearly gave away a clean sheet at the death when he was too casual in possession. Not great.
RB: Sergi Roberto – 9/10 – Bombed forward and helped to carve through Athletic’s defence with his underlapping runs. Took his goal brilliantly.
CB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Showed up, kept things watertight in defence, barely broke a sweat and was done after an hour. Solid evening’s work.
CB: Eric Garcia – 6/10 – Garcia didn’t have his hands full at any point in particular, but a solid performance and a clean sheet is the ideal platform to build some confidence.
LB: Alejandro Balde – 7/10 – Made a solid account of himself on being given the nod over the experienced Jordi Alba. Grew in confidence as the game went on.
CM: Sergio Busquets – 6/10 – With very little to do in terms of being defensively stretched, the veteran midfielder was able to enjoy a tidy return to the XI.
CM: Frenkie de Jong – 6/10 – Ticked possession over nicely and made a fine account of himself in what was his second consecutive start.
RW: Ousmane Dembele – 9/10 – On it from the off. Direct, sharp touches, positionally aware and selfless. Superb.
AM: Gavi – N/A – Went off injured after half an hour.
LW: Pedri – 7/10 – Playing out wide and further forward, Pedri sometimes got lost in not being able to make his runs from deeper. Still picked u some brilliant positions in the left half space, though, which proved problematic.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 8/10 – Incredible movement to torment Athletic’s flat-footed defence. Creates opportunities for his teammates while also sniffing out – and taking – chances for himself.
SUB: Franck Kessie (33′ for Gavi) – 7/10 – A dominant performance despite being thrust into action rather unexpectedly. Kept Barcelona in control and showed glimpses of why he is so highly regarded by many.
SUB: Ansu Fati (63′ for Lewandowski) – 6/10 – Lacking sharpness, but not effort. Unfortunate not to score.
SUB: Marcos Alonso (63′ for Kounde) – 5/10 – Still looks somewhat uncomfortable at centre-back.
SUB: Ferran Torres (63′ for Pedri) – 7/10 – Should’ve had a brace, but made amends for an earlier wasted chance by tucking away his second.
SUB: Pablo Torre (77′ for Dembele) – N/A
Manager: Xavi – 8/10 – Rotated his side well and still managed to come away with a brilliant performance and result. Has recovered from a difficult week tremendously. Just a shame he got himself booked.