Barcelona coach Quique Setien admitted that his side had been struggling to get off the ground since the season returned after the three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday after a scrappy 1-0 home win against Athletic Bilbao.

Barca needed a late goal from replacement Ivan Rakitic to see off a determined athletic side and although they had picked up a third win in four matches since the re-started season, they failed to sparkle again.

“When teams offer you little space, you have to be very precise and agile and that’s what we’ve been missing since we came back,” Setien told a virtual conference.

“It wasn’t easy and we’re missing something, a bit of a spark overall. Our opponents have a lot to do with this because they stick together and hardly leave any space and we find it difficult to open them up. But I believe that the more the season goes on, the easier we will start to find it.”

Barca thrashed Real Mallorca 4-0 after the long break but looked rusty in last week’s 2-0 victory over battling Leganes and 0-0 was held in Seville on Friday, enabling Real Madrid to go to the top of the league on Sunday.

Athletic ‘s win took Barca three points ahead of Madrid but on Wednesday, Zinedine Zidane’s side will go back to the tabletop with victory over Real Mallorca.

Setien wasn’t satisfied with how his side started against Athletic but praised Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati as they helped open their opponents when they came out of the bench.

“In the second half, we were more relaxed and played much better. Ansu and Riqui gave us dynamism and allowed us to be in possession for longer periods,” Setien said.

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