Ronald Koeman admits Barcelona are already feeling the effects of Lionel Messi’s shock departure after being held to a point at Athletic Bilbao… and says rivals ‘had more fear’ with the PSG superstar at the Nou Camp
- Barcelona dropped their first points of the year after drawing at Athletic Bilbao
- Struggling after Lionel Messi’s exit, the visitors levelled through Memphis Depay
- Ronald Koeman conceded after full-time that Messi’s absence is taking its toll
- He also admitted that opponents feared Barcelona more with Messi in the side
Ronald Koeman has admitted that the absence of Lionel Messi is felt at Barcelona, after his team were held to a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
The stalemate at San Mames marked the first time that the club have dropped points in LaLiga this season, and saw them notably struggle to earn a second straight win.
And after the game, despite his team temporarily moving top of the table, Koeman was not afraid to express his disappointment and open up on Messi’s departure.
Ronald Koeman admitted Barcelona are missing Lionel Messi after their draw at Athletic Bilbao
Messi is now at Paris Saint-Germain and working towards making his much-anticipated debut
‘I don’t like to always talk about the same thing, but we’re talking about the best in the world. Our opponents had more fear when Messi was here,’ he said.
‘For us as well, if you pass the ball to Leo, usually he won’t lose it. You can tell [Messi] isn’t there. We know that and we can’t change it.’
Memphis Depay earned the Blaugrana a share of the spoils in the enthralling clash, while both teams also struck the woodwork and squandered good chances.
Barcelona dropped points in only their second league fixture after struggling at San Mames
Memphis Depay has stepped up after Messi’s exit and continued his form with a wondergoal
The transitional nature of the visitors was laid bare for all to see, however, although Depay has stepped up quickly after joining the club from Lyon.
His superb leveller, which cancelled out Inigo Martinez’s header in emphatic style, underlined his quality, and the flying forward also fired wide late on.
But Bilbao were deserving of the point, and Barcelona’s frustration was further compounded when defender Eric Garcia was sent off in stoppage time.
Koeman praised the home side’s dogged showing, and admitted that the final score was a fair result.
Koeman (right) admitted that a share of the spoils was the fair result for both of the teams
But boss Koeman also conceded that the effects of Messi’s exit are already touching his side
‘It was a great game for many things in football. I think we made things too difficult for ourselves at the start of the game,’ he added.
‘The pressed us a lot and well. We need to know when we can play short, from the keeper as well. We weren’t calm enough in the first 15 minutes.
‘I think a draw is a fair result, we had chances to win. Athletic were at a very high level. Playing like that, this is a tough ground, so I can’t be unhappy with the result.’
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, two of Barcelona’s title rivals this campaign, will have the chance to move ahead of them with victories today.
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