La Liga returned in all its fashion and what a curtain-raiser we got at San Mamés last Friday evening. Athletic Bilbao hosted the reigning champions Barcelona and served them a cold shower courtesy of their jubilant 38-year-old, Aritz Aduriz.

It has been a whole decade since the Catalans last lost their opening game in the Spanish top-flight and this one is bound to sting. This tactical analysis will dissect the game and tell you just what tactics won Athletic Bilbao the game and how Ernesto Valverde’s troops failed to make a good impression on day one of the competition.


Unai Simón started in-between the sticks for Athletic Bilbao with a young duo of Yeray Álvarez and Unai Nunez. Íñigo Martínez was the one missing from the backline as he is still out injured. Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche manned the flanks while we saw a midfield duo of Dani Garcia and Unai López just in front of the defensive line.

Moving upward, a right-back turned winger, Oscar de Marcos, was deployed on the right since Ibai Gomez is still sidelined. Opposite of him was Iker Muníain. Finally, Raúl García and Iñaki Williams formed the tip of Athletic Bilbao’s attack.

Gaizka Garitano lined them up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

On the other side of the pitch, Barcelona also fielded a well-known squad with simple tweaks to their tactics. Marc-André ter Stegen was in goal with a quartet of Nélson Semedo, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet and Jordi Alba in front of him. Sergi Roberto was promoted to a midfielder alongside the newcomer Frenkie de Jong and the young Carles Aleñá.

The obvious omissions here were Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitić while Lionel Messi was definitely the biggest loss for Barcelona since the Argentine is still recovering from his injury.

{To read the rest of this tactical analysis article, go here}