The win meant that Barcelona finally strung together three straight victories in all competitions in the ongoing 2021/22 season for the first time.
Manager Xavi Hernandez rested Frenkie De Jong for the tie, returning Gavi to the starting line up. Veteran right-back Dani Alves returned to the squad and Sergiño Dest was switched to left-back for the suspended Jordi Alba.
Athletic Club made changes of their own ahead of their midweek Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Valencia.
However, that proved to be their undoing as the absence of key players meant Barcelona ran the game from start to finish.
Dembele and Pedri, especially, showed immense quality for the Catalans, helping them to their first three-game winning streak in the season.
Xavi has struggled to stabilise Barcelona since taking over as manager following the sack of Ronald Koeman in November.
However, the signs were there and now they have become clearer in the past few weeks. His signings, especially, have made all the difference as the quadruplet of Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Aubameyang have been responsible for 18 goals since joining the club in January.
Aubameyang, especially, looks like his old self again after a troubled last few months at Arsenal which saw him forced out of the club. He now has five goals in his first six games for the club, including one hat trick.
Luuk De Jong joined Barcelona on Koeman’s request but never looked like a Barcelona striker. The big Dutchman has continued to prove everyone wrong and is now fast becoming Barcelona’s super sub, with five goals in LaLiga from four starts. Four of those goals have come with Xavi as manager.
Pedri ran the midfield, while Ronald Araujo marshalled the defence expertly. The attack was balanced until the introduction of Dembele who tilted the scales in Barcelona’s favour.
Asides getting a third straight win, the Blaugrana have now gone six games unbeaten as they begin a new unbeaten streak which they hope to keep up in this key phase of the season.
It was poetic as their last run was ended by Athletic Club, who dumped them out of the Copa del Rey in January.
Barcelona and Dembele’s off-the-pitch issues still continue but the Frenchman has not allowed it affect his performances on the pitch.
He has been very important for Xavi since officially being reintegrated into the squad after the January transfer window and has now finally gotten himself on the score sheet.
He came on to replace Ferran Torres and minutes later, powered home a rocket of a shot before providing assists for Luuk De Jong and the returning Depay.
Xavi was asked about Dembele and his future after the match. “This is not my business,” the manager replied. “In football nothing can be ruled out. It is a matter for Dembele and the club, what I am is happy with him because he is a professional.
“He has made the difference. I see many conditions. Today we have seen the Dembélé that we want and that we all want.”
Xavi also did not hold back the praise for Pedri. “Pedri reminds me of Andres Iniesta. He’s simply magic. I did not see many other talents at his level before…he’s amazing,” he said.