Barcelona’s highlight of the season has been their defensive resilience. Xavi’s men continue to produce impressive performances at the back to grind out wins on a regular basis. The same was the case in their 1-0 win over Athletic Club.
Even in the absence of Ronald Araújo at San Mamés, Barca defended well. Both Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde were impressive and gave the likes of Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain very few opportunities to get into their penalty box. And when Athletic forwards found any success against the duo, Marc-André ter Stegen stepped up to deny them.
Ernesto Valverde’s side were equally impressive in their defensive third and only allowed two shots on target – three less than they mustered at the opposite end.
Dani Vivian and Iñigo Martínez were solid in the heart of the defence and kept Robert Lewandowski quiet all night. Raphinha’s effort to find the match-winning goal was superb, but he wasn’t allowed a comfortable outing either.
Barcelona agree ‘almost everything’ to sign La Liga defender
Martínez has been one of Valverde’s most important players. But his brilliant performances are also being noticed by rival La Liga clubs, with Barcelona at the front of the queue.
According to Spanish outlet Relevo, Barcelona are close to signing the 31-year-old centre-back. The league leaders have almost everything agreed with the Spanish player, whose contract with Athletic expires at the end of the season.
Martínez’s priority has always been to join Barcelona, but the atmosphere of uncertainty around the club could impact summer plans. There are concerns regarding the Blaugrana’s financial situation. Further, the Catalan outfit have also been charged with corruption over payments they made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the vice-president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee.
The hierarchy will hope things get more settled and stable ahead of the summer transfer window and Barcelona continue to attract the biggest names in the game to strengthen Xavi’s rebuild.