When games are tight and things aren’t perhaps going as smoothly as one might hope, it’s down to the coach to find a solution. Three quarters of the way into the game with Athletic, and with no score, Quique Setién did just that. Three of the players he sent on, Riqui Puig, Ivan Rakitic and Ansu Fati, all ended up playing key roles in the 1-0 win.
Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati, both from the B team, brought the pace and freshness that Barça needed to take on the tight Athletic defence. Riqui Puig came on for Arthur after 56 minutes and made 27 passes, recovered two balls and created one goalscoring opportunity.
Ansu Fati replaced Griezmann after 65 minutes and all 11 of his passes were good, while he also had two shots on goal and completed a dribble.
Rakitic came on for the last 25 minutes as a replacement for Sergio Busquets and had only been on for six of those when he won the ball on the edge of the area, played a one-two with Messi and slammed in the only goal of the game.
He made 14 good passes, recovered one ball and also got a yellow card. His first goal of the season means 17 different players have now been on target for Barça this term. The final substitute, Braithwaite for Suárez, only got the last five minutes but still found time to add a new dynamic to the blaugrana frontline.
Under Setién, Ansu Fati has attempted 21 dribbles, a tally only topped by Leo Messi (117). And Araújo’s 95% pass completion rate, albeit in just one game, is the highest in the squad. Sending young blood onto the pitch certainly proved to be a wise move in a tricky encounter on Tuesday night!