La Liga: Barcelona returns to number one spot with slim win against Athletico Bilbao

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Barcelona has returned to the summit of the La Liga table after limping to a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

The win will at least leave the Blaugrana on the top of La Liga for at least 24 hours, three points ahead of Real Madrid.

Ivan Rakitic was the team’s saviour this time around from recording another stalemate when he struck in the 71st  for the host to get the maximum points.

Provided Real Madrid beat Real Mallorca in their next match, which is scheduled for today, the Galacticos will return to the summit. But Barcelona will at least be relieved that the victory over Bilbao has put the pressure back on Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Barcelona-Bilbao

Rakitic scores for Barca

Rather than the normal free-flowing football expected from Barca on their turf, especially, this performance as hardly a statement of intent that was devoid of chances, and lacked zip. It was a frustrating moment for the team before finally finding the back of the net.

The team’s star, Lionel Messi, cut a frustrated figure due to his team’s display. He was the creator-in-chief again for the solitary strike. The dependence on him looks high as he is one goal away from hitting his 700th career goal.

Mikel Balenziaga failed to clear Arturo Vidal’s header after Messi crossed the ball to the back post. The Bilbao player, instead, gave it back to Messi, whose reverse pass was taken on by Rakitic, who bundled it home.

We knew it was going to be hard – Setien.

Speaking after the encounter, Barcelona’s coach, Quique Setien, had said the team knew the game was going to be complicated, and due to some anxiety that gives little or no chance for error, it was expected.

Setien on the tourchline

While noting that the team lacked composure sometimes, which showed in the first half as they were more inaccurate than usual, which gave the visitors some belief and confidence.

 We have to stick together – Rakitic

Also speaking after the encounter, the goalscorer, Rakitic, who is likely to leave Camp Nou this summer, said the team has to stick together and secured their objective, which is the La Liga trophy. The trophy could elude them if Real Madrid wins all their remaining games, which Setien doubts.

The Croatian midfielder has not been a regular for the tea this season, and he had now scored his first Barca goal since the Clasico in March last year.

“It was an important goal; it was a tough game, it was hard for us to open the game up,” he said.