Report as Barcelona return to winning ways to move three points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga
Barcelona reclaimed top spot in La Liga with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao that applied pressure on title-rivals Real Madrid.
Substitute Ivan Rakitic came off the bench and broke 71 minutes of Bilbao resistance with his first goal of the season as the champions bounced back from Friday’s goalless draw at Sevilla in unconvincing fashion.
Bilbao created the better chances in a frantic first period at the Nou Camp but were guilty of letting their challenge fizzle out after the break.
Lionel Messi came close to registering his 700th career goal twice in a brilliant individual performance and youngster Ansu Fati struck the post late on.
But Rakitic’s strike proved enough as Quique Setien’s side piled the pressure on Real ahead of their match with Mallorca on Wednesday. Bilbao remain 10th.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6), Semedo (6), Lenglet (6), Pique (7), Alba (7), Busquets (7), Arthur (5), Vidal (6), Griezmann (5), Suarez (5), Messi (8).
Subs: Rakitic (8), Braithwaite (6), Puig (7), Fati (7).
Athletic Bilbao: Unai Simon (7), De Marcos (7), Nunez (6), Yeray (6), Balenziaga (7), Unai Lopez (6), Vesga (6), Lekue (7), Sancet (6), Cordoba (5), Williams (7).
Subs: Muniain (6), Dani Garcia (6), Raul Garcia (5), Villalibre (5).
Man of the Match: Lionel Messi
How Barca returned to La Liga summit
The pressure was on Barcelona to revive their title challenge after surrendering first place to eternal rivals Real Madrid over the weekend.
Bilbao had won the previous two encounters between the two sides this season in La Liga and the Copa del Rey with last-minute goals, but Gaizka Garitano’s side almost struck early when Unai Lopez’s in-swinging cross was fumbled by Marc-Andre ter Stegen inside four minutes