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After comfortably seeing off Villarreal midweek, Sunday brought more of the same in a game that shared several parallels with the game three days before, also at Spotify Camp Nou.
On Thursday, the game was as good as over when Barça scored three times in eight minutes. Against Athletic, the same number of goals, also in quickfire succession (on this occasion ten minutes) also meant the three points already looked safe and sound long before the half-time whistle blew.
A superlative Ousmane Dembélé was involved in all three of those – and that wasn’t the end of his contributions on an unforgettable night for the ‘mosquito’.
The downside to today’s festival atmosphere in front of 84,817 fans was a pelvis injury sustained by Golden Boy Gavi following a nasty clash with Dani García, and then a nasty shoulder issue for Sergi Roberto that meant Barça had to play out the final few minutes with just ten men.
Thankfully, Xavi indicated after the game that the former's status is nothing to worry about, and the greater concern is regarding Roberto. Tests tomorrow will provide a clearer idea.
The result keeps up the pressure on leaders Real Madrid, who remain three points clear after beating Sevilla 3-1 the day before.
Ten minutes of heaven
Barça were ruthless, their finishing was clinical and Athletic were already clearly vanquished with over an hour of the game to go.
After just 12 minutes, Dembélé headed in goal number one after his original shot had been well stopped by Unai Simón only for Robert Lewandowski to collect the rebound and coolly plonk the ball onto his French colleague’s head.
It was the 4,000th goal that Barça have scored at home in La Liga.
Having scored the first, Dembélé then set up the second and third.
The second was a deft one-two with Sergi Roberto and the Catalan’s well-struck finish caused Spotify Camp Nou to erupt.
And the third was the trademark turn-and-shoot from Lewandowski. Off Dembélé’s original cross, it was another master-class in execution from the Pole to claim his 12th goal of the league season and pretty much ensure the three points were already bagged.
That was also the 100th goal (in all competitions) of the Xavi Hernández era.
Barça’s rampant mood had eased off in the second half against Villarreal but there was never any sign of that happening here. They continued to push forward and could easily have scored a fourth long before Ferran Torres finally did.
His finish was neat but the talking point was where the pass had come from. Dembélé has had many brilliant nights in the blaugrana jersey, but this may well have been the most glittering of all. He left the field to a standing ovation after 77 minutes, replaced by Pablo Torre, who thus made his competitive debut for the senior team.
In six home games this Liga season, Barça have now scored 15 goals and not conceded even once.
The team’s Champions League hopes are in serious jeopardy. On Wednesday we’ll learn how things pan out there. But In La Liga, the Catalans are very much still in contention. Next weekend, it’s Valencia away. Força Barça!
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