Rakitic rescues Barcelona against resolute Athletic
FC Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Club
It was a series of second have substitutes from Quique Setien that changed the tide at Camp Nou with Riqui Puig adding a verve and drive that was lacking as the Catalan side laboured to break down a well drilled Athletic Club.
The goal was scored by Rakitic in the 71st minute with the Croatian getting on the scoresheet for the first time all season, latching on to a loose ball from a Messi assist to fire past Unai Simon.
With the win, Barcelona now deliver the pressure on Real Madrid who can regain top spot with a win over relegation threatened Mallorca who travel to the capital on Wednesday night.
A struggle at times but Setien's men now deliver the pressure on Real Madrid with a tough contest at Camp Nou.
The kick possibly the last action of the game. Messi places the ball, 21m out. Once again into the wall and the full time whistle sounds.
Massive volley of fireworks audible now as Barcelona fans sense a vital three points are imminent. Fati rifles the ball off Simon as the Catalan side probe looking for a second. Messi fouled and in an ideal area for the Argentine.
Nuñez lacthes onto a speculative cross but nods well over the bar.
Rakitic carded for upending Vesga.
5 minutes of time to be added.
Barcelona a different proposition following the goal and Setien's changes with Puig and Fati have been key in adding another gear to the side. Suarez looks unfit and still off his best and Griezmann has still yet to settle in a azul-grana shirt
Great play from Fati who feeds Messi and once again the Argentine goes close.
Pique is on the ground and looks to be in pain. Play held up.
The No. 10 rifles the ball straight into the wall. Not a vintage night for Messi.
Into the final five minutes we go. Barcelona in control but just that one goal ahead. Free for the home side with Messi to take.
Braithwaite on for Suarez.
Athletic go close as Ter Stegen mis-times a cross ball but Raul Garcia unable to latch on to the cross. Better from the visitors in the past few minutes with Raul Garcia involved in the action.
Athletic have been tame in going forward in the second half with Ter Stegen enjoying a placid second half so far.
Messi inches away from bagging goal no.700 as the ball flashes just wide of Unai Simon's post.
Raul Garcia on with the 20-year-old Sancet making way.
Riqui Puig really has been instrumental in increasing the energy and intensity levels for the home side.
Barcelona bossing possession 70/30.
Water break with 15' left at Camp Nou
All Barcelona now and Athletic being pressed back with no Williams as an outlet.
First goal from the Croatian international all season as a volley of fireworks sound outside Camp Nou.
The Croatian latching on to a ball in the box and drives past Unai Simon.
Capa and Villalibre on for Athletic. Williams and Lekue make way.
Messi and Suarez try and link up again but Messi's return ball lacks accuracy and Athletic clear. A discreet performance so far tonight from the Barcelona captain.
Puig has looked excellent since coming on and using an urgency lacking in many of his team mates.
Ansu Fati almost puts Barcelona ahead with his first touch but heads over the bar. Athletic set to make changes too with Capa ready for action.
Double change for Barcelona. Busquets off along with Griezmann.
Rakitic getting ready to come on but it's Ansu Fati the fans want to see.
Messi to take the free and looks for Lenglet and Pique but the ball is ever so slightly overhit and drifts out.
Unai Nuñez carded for a rash challenge on Suarez.
Raul Garcia warming up for the visitors with Puig very active since his introduction to the action.
The San Juan fireworks still audible in side Camp Nou as Barcelona attack as Messi looks to thread the ball through the wall of red and white.
Two changes for Athletic with Munain and Dani Garcia poised to enter the fray. Unai Lopez and Cordoba the men sacrificed.
Arthur makes way for Puig.
Griezmann picks up a ball from Messi after an uncharacteristic error from the Basque defence. The French striker tries to lob Unai Simon but fails with the effort. Puig poised to enter the action.
This is a game where were there fans present they could rally the side and deliver a push of urgency that Barcelona seem to be lacking. Despite still yet to concede since the restart, they rolled over relegation threatened Leganes and Mallorca but ran out of ideas against superior opposition in Sevilla last Friday are in danger of doing the same tonight.
Barcelona need to lure Athletic out of their deep defensive position with a counter looking their likeliest avenue when the Basque side are stretched. This pattern of nine men in red and white behind the ball with Barcelona moving the ball from one side of the pitch seems unlikely to pay dividends.
Off we go at Camp Nou.
Puig, Fatih and Rakitic warming up and a question of time before the players get their taste of action. A draw is no good to Barcelona. No changes at the break.
Second half imminent as the teams take to the pitch. Garitano certainly the happier coach at the interval with his side solid at the back and dangerous via the Williams counter attacks.
Could this be the time for Setien to give Suarez a rest and try Ansu Fati? Athletic are looking very well organised and it will take something special to unlock the 'rojiblanco' defensive padlock.
Gil Manzano calls time ion the action and we head to the interval all square.
Athletic have the third best defensive record in LaLiga this season after both Madrid clubs and Barcelona will need all the Messi magic available to carve open Gartiano's disciplined side. 2' of time to be added.
Athletic with everyone behind the ball and Barcelona lumbering somewhat when in possession. There was a degree of predictability with Setien's Betis side and a tendency to overplay the ball, this is apparent now with his Barça team too.
Semedo threads the ball through to Suarez with the Uruguayan in an offside position. The striker still seems well of the pace off the Suarez we know which is understandable given the nature of his long lay-off.
Barça probing moving the ball around but no way through the red and white shirts. Solid defensive display from Garitano's men.
Uncharacteristic from Messi as the Argentine, not for the first time tonight overhits a ball into the Athletic box.
Into the final ten minutes of a pacy first half. Athletic very much in the game but will they have the ability to maintain this high energy tempo?
Barcelona win their second corner as Yeray clears.
Barcelona travel to Vigo to face struggling Celta with Athletic at home to Mallorca next weekend.
High feet from the midfielder.
Busquets carded and will now miss the game in Vigo.
We're back underway at Camp Nou.
Gil Manzano calls for the water break and both managers afforded a chance to impress tactical advice on their respective sides.
A hurly burly game so far with neither side enjoying a gilt edge chance but plenty of half chances. No lack in the entertainment levels.
Barcelona win their first corner of the night after good work from Suarez. Both he and Messi have been busy tonight but a discreet 25 plus minutes from Griezmann so far.
Barcelona under pressure again as Athletic work the ball into the opposition area and just fail to secure a shot. Barça break on a counter and the ball goes loose but no player in Azul-grana is on hand to fire home the ball.
Barcelona on top in possession terms but Athletic enjoying more shots
Shots: FCB 3-4 ATH
Yeray goes close for the visitors but just fires his header wide of Ter Steen's post.
Nice link-up play between Messi and Suarez but the return ball from the Argentine is just too pacy for the striker and Unai Simon gathers.
Over 20 years since Athletic recorded a win at Camp Nou but Barcelona have been unable to overcome the Basques in their past four meetings.
Arthur sandwiched by two Athletic players at Camp Nou tonight.
A volley of bangers and fireworks audible at Camp Nou tonight with the city celebrating the San Juan fiestas and noisy fireworks synonymous with the celebrations in the city.
Suarez has a go from range but the Uruguayan fails to secure accuracy and velocity in the hit and easy for Unai Simon as the ball breaks to Suarez again and this time the striker pulls the ball wide of the post.
Iñaki Williams breaks and fires the ball into the side netting. Great burst of pace from the Athletic striker but just lacking finesse in the finish.
Athletic battling for a European place given the uncertainty surrounding the final of the Copa del Rey where the 'Leones' are set to face Real Sociedad with the winner securing a ticket to the Europa League. With no date set for that final and the deadline for subscription in next year's UEFA competitions terminating in August a sixth place in LaLiga would see Athletic in Europe.
Williams with a busy night ahead with the striker the lone reference point in attack for Garitano's side.
Bright start with both teams enjoying spells of possession
Aduriz is at Camp Nou tonight to support his former team-mates with the veteran striker forced to hang up his boots last month with a hip problem.
Suarez, on the floor in the Athletic box goes close but Unai Simon deflects the ball away from danger.
Ter Stegen forced to scramble the ball away after a mix-up in the Barcelona defence.
Barcelona started impressively last Friday in Seville but ran out of gas as the second half progressed with a tendency to over play the ball. An early goal essential for the home side to calm any nerves against a much changed Athletic side as the visitors win the first corner of the night.
The whistle sounds and Athletic start the action. Off we go at Camp Nou.
Jesus Gil Manzano is our match official tonight with Busquets, Vidal and Suarez one booking away from a suspension.
"Tot al camp, es un clam" the FC Barcelona hymn belts out from the stadium PA as the sides take to the pitch.
Anims Unzue on the Barcelona warm up t-shirts, a tribute from the Catalan side to former Barça coach Juan Carlos Unzue who announced last Thursday that he was diagnosed with the rare neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Still can't decide if that FC Barcelona warm-up shirt is a hit or miss....
This man celebrates his 33rd birthday tomorrow....His 700th goal in the Azul-grana shirt would be a nice present for the Argentine.
Nothing short of a win will do for Barcelona tonight with pressure mounting on Setien with many fans now feeling that the league title is destined to end top in the Spanish capital with Real Madrid enjoying, at least on paper an easier run in. Zidane's men are in action at home tomorrow to relegation threatened Mallorca.
Athletic fans looking forward to seeing the 20-year-old promise Sancet in action this evening. The Pamplona born central player making his fourth LaLiga appearance this season.
Athletic warming up at Camp Nou. 'Los Leones' set to wear their change shorts tonight to avoid a clash with the dark blue of the home side.
A perfect evening for football in the Catalan capital with a temperature of 24C/77 F expected at 22:00. We'll have water breaks on the half hour mark and in the 75th minute and both sides are now permitted to make five changes.
Barça yet to ship a goal since the recent LaLiga restart.
Barcelona on a run of three wins and a draw ahead of the game with the visitors unbeaten in 5.
Messi is still just one goal away from his 700th FC Barcelona goal, the striker has bagged 582 with the trusty left and 93 with his less fancied right foot.
Other results in LaLiga games taking place tonight:
Valladolid 1-1 Getafe
Levante 0-1 At. Madrid
Camp Nou tonight ahead of the game bathed in late June sunshine.
Athletic start the game in tenth place tonight with Barcelona in second spot, behind Real Madrid by virtue of the head-to-head record with Zidane's side.
In their three games since LaLiga's comeback, Athletic have bagged 5 points from a possible 9 with a win over Betis and draws against At. Madrid and SD Eibar. Barcelona have yet to concede since the restart winning twice and playing out a 0-0 draw with Sevilla on Friday which cost the Catalan side their place at the top of the table as Real Madrid beat R.Sociedad on Sunday in a game marred with controversy.
Both sides played out a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in the corresponding fixture last season and when they met in the opening night of the current campaign, it took a last minute wonder-goal from Aritz Aduriz to secure maximum points for the Basque side.
First the home side where Griezmann returns to the start and links up with Suarez and Messi in attack.
Without further ado, let's bring you the starting line-ups which were confirmed very recently.
Hello and a very warm welcome to our live coverage of FC Barcelona vs. Athletic Club from Camp Nou in the Catalan capital with a 2200 CEST start.