The Spanish first-division football league finally returned from the two-week break due to international encounters, and FC Barcelona maintained their winning ways claiming an important 1-0 victory at Athletic Bilbao.

Pep Guardiola decided to leave Leo Messi on the bench for the entire game. As the coach explained, Lionel was in good condition to play, but he preferred to give him a rest after the demanding games and long trips the Argentine star has been through in the past few days. Xavi was also out of the team due to a slight muscle injury. The game played at Bilbao’s San Mamés stadium was a close affair, with Athletic relying on their traditional spirited style and Barça having to work really hard to get the three points. After a mediocre first half, the second period saw an improvement in Barcelona’s attacking play. In the 63rd minute Thierry Henry made a fine move and set up Samuel Eto’o, who scored the only goal of the night. This win -the team’s fifth in a row- keeps Barça three points behind first-place Valencia CF on the league table. On an unfortunate note, both Keita and Márquez had to leave the pitch injured.

Leo Messi will have a chance to come back into Barça’s line-up on Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League game at FC Basel.