Barça Player Ratings: Crushing Copa Loss vs Athletic Bilbao

Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

San Mamés has always been, and will always be, a very hard place to play. Barça saw it firsthand, as they have many times before. Xavi's men were dominated basically from start to finish as Athletic Bilbao imposed their game plan of the match. The final tally is a 4-2 loss for Xavi's team, that easily could've been more. Yet another embarrassing loss, one that knocks them out of the Copa del Rey.

Despite this, the youngsters must be commended. Cubarsí, Hector Fort, and especially Lamine Yamal were bright spots in an otherwise dreary match. The fact that they're this good at this young of an age shows that, if nothing else, Xavi is an excellent coach when it comes to allowing young talent to rise up the ranks. How did they play, as well as everyone else?


Peña: 5/10 - He had a couple of amazing saves, especially late on, but he isn't the answer at the position moving forward. He just looks shaky at the back. Little to no presence in the box, and not decisive enough when dealing with aerial threats. He punches away balls he should grab and puts the ball in harm's way. On top of that, he doesn't pass the way Ter Stegen does. Could he have done much on any of the goals? Maybe not a ton he could've done, but it's everything else that lowers his rating here.


Balde: 7/10 - Back to the weird hybrid left winger role that he's been playing this season. It doesn't suit him very well; in fact, it requires him to do exactly what he's not very good at. However, he's talented enough to somewhat make up for it. He played well with Ferran, and was able to invert some of the time. Defensively, he's a beast, but he seems to be too far from the action regularly. He suffered quite a serious injury though, possibly missing the rest of the season. An absolute bummer.

Araújo: 8/10 - Ronald Araújo is an absolute brick wall at the back. His physical tools are only part of the equation, as he's absolutely fearless as well. He was tremendous in the air and quick enough to match up against Iñaki Williams when he needed to. In fact, the Uruguayan was the only starting defender to maintain his level throughout the match.

Christensen: 7/10 - His passing was needed in that first half, as well as his poise on and off the ball. He did fairly well in defense as well, being the smart player he is, not being forced to sprint back much. However, similarly to Koundé, he diminished as the clock kept ticking. He didn't play badly by any means, but it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Koundé: 6/10 - Started off well enough, although he didn't have much opportunity at all to go forward due to Bilbao's high press. However, as the game went on he dwindled, to the point that he looked absolutely done in extra time. Nico Williams made mincemeat of him in those last 30 minutes. This performance definitely seemed like tiredness, but facing a team like Athletic, who seem to never tire, it spelled doom for Barcelona.

Fort: 9/10 - He came on after Balde's injury and acquitted himself beautifully. Playing out of position, the 17-year-old looked extremely solid, both on and off the ball. In possession, he was more than capable. He defended the Williams brothers in one-on-one situations more than once and didn't let them past him. He did take a tactical yellow, but he did it right. Fort is the first of the youngsters to impress in this one, and he's definitely earned more time sooner rather than later.

Cubarsí: 8/10 - The newly 17-year-old is simply a smart player. Audacious on the ball, he tries passes between the lines that seem to work out all the time. Positionally, he's very adept. He cuts out passes and defends well one-on-one. Not quite as good as his debut performance, but impressive nonetheless.


De Jong: 6/10 - Not as good in this one as he usually is. Despite the obvious issues with him defensively while playing in that deeper role, he's generally been better there as of late. Not quite in this one. He is often out of position, and to add on top of that, he wasn't particularly busting his butt to get back on defense. He isn't a single pivot, as is well established by now. Barça simply can't play this type of system without a real DM in there to help the Dutchman out. Gundogan is great, but he's not that, and Frenkie suffers for it.

Gundogan: 7/10 - Gundogan suffers from the odd sort of miasma the midfield is anchored in. Is he a pivot? Kind of. Is he an interior? Also kind of? It seems that Xavi doesn't have the clearest vision for what his midfield shape will look like, which to a certain extent is understandable. He doesn't have a real DM to trot out there. But Gundogan suffers for this, forced to play deeper when he wants to go up and he probably plays better higher up. He's skilled enough to play virtually anywhere, of course, but he's wasted potential.

Pedri: 7/10 - Pedri is playing higher up while Gundogan plays deeper. Fine, except it isolates Pedri a bit and forces him a bit wider than he probably wants to be just so he can receive the ball. He stills has a ton of talent, of course, but he hasn't quite been himself since returning from injury. Bilbao kept him nice and subdued throughout, even if he did make a few nice plays. He also missed quite a few others.

Sergi Roberto: 6/10 - Made a short appearance in this one, during which he played pretty much every midfield position. There was even a time he was in a sort of double pivot with Frenkie, which was... interesting. He's another player that isn't bad necessarily (in the midfield, anyway), just put in weird situations.


Lewandowski: 6.5/10 - Scored a lucky goal that really was a result of Yuri's faulty clearance, but credit where credit is due. He stuck his foot out there and got the bounce, so I can't blame him for that. It brought Barça back in the game when they really needed it. See what happens when you stay around the box, Robert? But other than that, he was a ghost. Didn't have much involvement, and also failed to find Yamal when he was wide open on the edge of the box.

Ferran: 7/10 - Off a hat trick in his last match, he had one of those Ferran games where he's pretty quiet. He did get more playing time, which allowed him to play in a few different positions. Ferran seems better through the middle, in my opinion, and he combined well a couple times with Yamal. However, he didn't have nearly the impact he had last game.

Yamal: 8/10 - Tempted to give him a 9. He scored a tremendous goal, and at only 16 years of age looked to be their best forward by quite some distance. His goal was a brilliant piece of individual play capped off by a sublime finish. However, he did miss a wide open goal that would've put the game away in the 85th minute, as well as wasting a few other chances. He also gave the ball away cheaply for Bilbao to open the scoring just 36 seconds in. He was good, but also had some brutal errors, so the most I can do is an 8. He'll be better, though.

Félix: 6/10 - Not much to write home about. The entire team was reeling in the minutes he played, being absolutely dominated by Bilbao, so he didn't have a chance to do much but defend. He does give it a good try when he's on, which is at the very least something positive to mention.

Guiu: 7/10 - Didn't have much time to shine, but did reasonably well. Not many chances came his way, as Xavi's side were a bit swamped in extra time. He did have a shot on goal, which was quite a rarity for Barça, but it was easily saved.

Xavi's Barça crash out of the Copa del Rey in a match where he was thoroughly outclassed by Ernesto Valverde. Athletic Bilbao came out with a clear vision of their match, and executed it perfectly. Valverde barely had to give any instructions, it seemed, as his players were impeccably drilled. Meanwhile, the squad from Catalunya allowed them to impose their will on the match. Add in a bit of Williams brothers magic, and the result is a Barcelona loss. With Barça now out of the Copa, and La Liga looking like a virtual impossibility, Xavi's job may now hinge on their Champions League campaign. The best of luck will be needed.