Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona stunned by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga opener
(CNN) — Missing Lionel Messi, La Liga champion Barcelona stumbled on a 1-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday as the Spanish league season got underway in exciting fashion.
Messi endured a calf injury during pre-season and with no Argentine, Barca looked fairly ordinary as substitute Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley in the game’s closing minutes sealed Bilbao’s shock win.
“The competition has set us in our location,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told Bloomberg. “We weren’t us.”
Last season, Barcelona coasted to the La Liga title, losing only three times and completed 11 points clear from second-place Atletico Madrid. Messi has been the leading scorer with 34 goals of the league.
But little went right for the Spanish champion on Friday. Barca striker Luis Suarez, who scored 33 goals last season, hit the post in the first half but soon afterwards limped off with the accident.
“Tests carried out on Saturday morning have confirmed that team participant Luis Su??rez has an injured right calf,” said Barca’s site on Saturday. “His comeback will soon dictate that his return to action”
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Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann made their debuts for Barca, however it was the 38-year-old Aduriz who delivered the game’s dramatic finale.
“Sometimes football can be so beautiful,” Aduriz informed reporters. “It’ll be impossible to not overlook this but what has a beginning and an end. I am incredibly thankful to have the ability to pick this end.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last season, were well worth their win with striker Inaki Williams frequently troubling the Barca defense.
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Meanwhile Barca and Bayern Munich have reached agreement to the transfer of Philippe Coutinho into the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil global will initially combine on a season-long loan, even with Bayern with an option to make the deal permanent for the 27-year-old forward.
“We have observed Coutinho for quite a while. The name does not matter, only the caliber,” Bayern main Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club website after the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC in Friday’s Bundesliga opening game.
“Obviously we still have to finalise some details, but we are thrilled to be bringing this participant to Bayern,” additional Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who combined Barcelona for a reported $170 million from Liverpool from 2018, has struggled to make an impact in Spain after filming in the English Premier League.
He became the next most expensive player ever when he made the move to Barcelona.
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