Lionel Messi was, by some distance, Barcelona's Man of the Match in their narrow 1-0 victory against Athletic on Wednesday and helped them claim the win, with an assist for the winning goal for Ivan Rakitic.
What was Messi's overall display like?
📷 Match Snapshot
From the get-go it was clear that Athletic were going to sit deep and remain sturdy at the back while trying to break on the counter, utilising the pace of striker Inaki Williams.
Therefore the burden was immediately put on Messi to unlock the opposition back line, with team-mates searching for him during every attack to provide a moment of magic.
He looked sharp and up for the challenge, though, and nearly scored a beauty as he attempted a cheeky lob over Unai Simon from 20 yards, but the keeper was not to be caught out.
Messi's shooting was surprisingly poor, though, as being forced to hit strikes from distance, and from free-kicks, he was unable to get any of his seven shots on goal actually on target, with four being blocked and three going off target, with two curled just wide of the far post in the closing stages.
A ⏱️ 71' Messi would eventually assist the winning goal, pulling off a quick exchange with Rakitic inside the box, showing lightning-quick feet in the process, to set the Croatian up for the close-range finish.
He enjoyed 94 touches of the ball, completed 42/53 passes, and won 15/24 duels.
With 10 touches inside the box and an unbelievable 10 completed dribbles, too, he outperformed everyone in La Liga on those particular metrics.
Barcelona 1-0 Athletic: Full Player Ratings and Statistics" href="https://www.footballcritic.com/primera-division-fc-Barcelona-Athletic-club/match-stats/1696674">Barcelona 1-0 Athletic: Full Player Ratings and Statistics
Messi was indeed helped out a little by youngster Riqui Puig, though, who impressed after coming on: Riqui Puig: Player Rating and Performance v Athletic Bilbao
〽️ Rating Week-on-Week
Messi was quiet by his standards against Sevilla, earning a 7.8 FC Rating.
This was a jump to a 8.5 FC Rating for his outing against Athletic, with his assist and general build-up play contributing to the improvement.
🗝️ Key Stats
Messi match stats
|🏆 FC Man of the Match
|Touches In Box
The Argentine is the only attacking player for the Blaugrana playing at full capacity, and with Antoine Griezmann toiling, Luis Suarez not yet fit, and Ansu Fati still extremely young, the onus will be on him to haul Barca to another title.
And, of course, he's still hunting for that 700th career goal. It will come sooner rather than later.