A fine display from Ousmane Dembele inspired Barcelona to a convincing win over Athletic Bilbao, but it came at the cost of an injury to Gavi.
Gavi, who won the Golden Boy award for the best young talent in European football last week, crumpled to the ground holding his groin in the first half.
The injury took the shine off a fantastic performance, particularly from Dembele who scored once and set up three others.
The Frenchman opened the scoring when he leapt to meet Robert Lewandowski’s cross from the left flank with a bullet header.
His link-up with Sergi Roberto was a feature all night and they combined for the second when the right back’s effort was deflected in off Inigo Martinez.
Unfortunately Sergi also left the field in the closing stages clutching his arm.
The third and fourth came from perfectly-timed diagonal balls from the right flank, the first for Lewandowski to turn and slam home and the other meeting the run of substitute Ferran Torres who slipped the ball past Unai Simon.
The win keeps Barcelona within three points of leaders Real Madrid, while Athletic Bilbao remain sixth.
Nervous wait for Xavi and Luis Enrique – Gavi crumpling to the floor in the first half holding his groin was a sad sight to see. A few minutes earlier, Gavi had been near assaulted by Dani Garcia in a tackle which involved a torso on torso smash and a knee to the nether region. One would hope the challenge led to the injury as while clearly awfully painful to the young midfielder, a collision impact is likely to heal sooner than a torn muscle. Either way, he surely miss Barcelona’s crucial Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Wednesday, but Luis Enrique will be hoping it does not impact his participation for Spain in the World Cup, where he was surely likely to have a big role to play.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona) – The French winger has had an enigmatic five years at Barcelona, but there is a reason Xavi repeatedly selects him in the biggest games despite the number of forward options he has at his disposal. Despite just one league goal last season, he provided a league high 13 assists, but never three in a game as he managed in this match. Just as impressive was the way he rose like Cristiano Ronaldo to power home a header from Lewandowski’s cross. France also have a plethora of options, but such an unselfish and dynamic player could force his way into their side too. Especially in this form.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Sergi Roberto 7, Kounde 6, Eric Garcia 7, Balde 7; De Jong 7, Busquets 7, Pedri 6; Dembele 9*, Gavi 6; Lewandowski 7.
Subs: Kessie 6, Torres 7, Alonso 6, Fati 6, Torre 6.
Athletic Bilbao: Simon 6; De Marcos 6, Yeray 6, Inigo Martinez 5, Yuri 6; Ander Herrera 5, Vesga 6; Nico Williams 5, Zarraga 5, Berenguer 6; Inaki Williams 6.
Subs: Dani Garcia 5, Sacet 6, Lekue 6, Vencedor 6, Raul Garcia 6.
12′ GOAL FOR BARCELONA! Lewandowski with a brilliant cross from the left wing which Dembele leaps high to head down into the corner of the net.
18′ GOAL FOR BARCELONA! Sergi Roberto makes it two with a deflected strike after he was played through by Dembele and his drive towards goal was deviated by Inigo Martinez’s leg.
22′ GOAL FOR BARCELONA! Again Dembele was the source on the right flank, he finds Lewandowski in the area who spins 270 degrees, bemusing de Marcos, before slamming a left-footed drive home.
33′ GAVI GOES DOWN HOLDING HIS GROIN… This is awful news for Barcelona. And Spain too. Hopefully it is due to the contact from Garcia’s foul and not a muscle injury for the young star.
53′ HOW DID THAT STAY OUT? Sergi Roberto was through on goal and from the six-yard box should have shot but tried to square for Lewandowsi, but Dani Garcia got to the ball and smashed it against his own post via a deflection from Pedri. The ball then just whizzed past Lewandowski on the rebound.
73′ GOAL FOR BARCELONA! Dembele finds Torres’ run behind the defence and this time he makes no mistake shooting between Simon’s legs and into the net.