FC Barcelona suffered blow after blow this month at the hands of Athletic Club. After losing in the semi-finals of the Supercopa de España last week, they have also been booted out of the Copa del Rey. The San Mames Stadium bore witness to a stellar performance by Athletic, who won 3-2 on extra time.

Xavi Hernandez saw his defensive line struggle to keep pace with the much more youthful Bilbao attackers. Nico Williams danced around the Barcelona defenders, and it took Iker Muniain only two minutes to put the hosts in front, making it clear that they are determined to dominate over the Catalan giants.

There was a silver lining for Barcelona as new signing Ferran Torres opened his account with the club to equalise in the 20th minute. Culers were delighted to see the latest addition to the team already making a contribution, and justifying Xavi's determination to sign him from Manchester City.

Nico Williams was always a threat throughout the match, but it was Muniain's freekick in the closing five minutes that helped put Athletic back in the lead. His shot found Alex Berenguer, whose header was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. However, Inigo Martinez managed to connect with the rebounding ball to send it over the line.

It looked like game over for Barcelona at this point, but Pedri managed to scrape up another equaliser to force the match into extra time.

Barcelona were not able to grab the momentum, and a handball from Jordi Alba sent Muniain to the spot. Ter Stegen had no chance, and it was the end of the Cops del Rey campaign for the Blaugrana.

At this point, Barcelona will have to give everything they can to get into the Champions League spots in La Liga. To be fair, they are not as far off as they had been a few weeks back. Even though Real Madrid are already a long way away on top, Barcelona are in 6th place with 32 points just a point behind Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid in 5th and 4th place respectively.

Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez AFP / KARIM JAAFAR