Defensive master class, clean sheet, and all three points. It was another day in the office for FC Barcelona, who registered their 21st win of the La Liga season with a 1-0 triumph over Athletic Club to remain nine points clear of second-placed Real Madrid.
“It’s the same thing once again. We have to play and attack better,” Xavi Hernandez told DAZN (via ESPN). Indeed it was. Raphinha, last week’s match-winner against Valencia, gave Barca the lead in this game as well. But apart from the Brazilian’s goal – assisted by Sergio Busquets – the visitors found little joy away from home.
Barcelona only mustered two shots on target against Ernesto Valverde’s side, who tested Marc-André ter Stegen five times. And as has been the case all season, the German goalkeeper stood strong to see out the game. Inaki Williams did manage to beat him in the 88th minute, but VAR stepped in to rule out the equalizer after spotting a handball by Iker Muniain before the ball reached the striker.
The Blaugrana have made a habit of struggling for the entirety of 90 minutes but celebrating at the full-time whistle courtesy of their resilient defending.
Barcelona set incredible La Liga record after 1-0 win over Athletic
The same at San Mamés helped the La Liga leaders to set a new record. Following Ter Stegen’s 19th clean sheet of the season, Barcelona became the first side in the competition’s history to concede just 8 eights goals after 25 games. Previously, Atletico Madrid in 1990/91 and Deportivo de La Coruna in 1993/94 held the impressive defensive record of letting in just 10 goals each.
A good defense is key to any title charge and Xavi’s Barca have certainly excelled in that department. But it cannot be ignored that their over-reliance on Ter Stegen and the individual brilliance of their centre-backs have backfired massively in Europe. They conceded double the amount of goals in the Champions League and Europa League this season.