Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona stunned by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga opener
(CNN) — Missing Lionel Messi, La Liga winner Barcelona stumbled on a 1-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday as the Spanish league season got underway in thrilling fashion.
Messi endured a calf injury through pre-season and without the Argentine, Barca looked fairly ordinary as replacement Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley from the game’s closing moments sealed Bilbao’s shock triumph.
“The contest has put us at our location,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told reporters. “We weren’t us”
Last year, Barcelona coasted to the La Liga title, losing only three times and completed 11 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid. Messi was the top scorer with 34 goals of the league.
But went right for the winner on Friday. Barca striker Luis Suarez, who scored 33 goals last season, hit the pole from the first half but shortly afterwards limped off with the injury.
“Tests completed on Saturday morning have confirmed that team player 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 amazing,” Aduriz told reporters. “It’ll be impossible not to miss this but what has a start and an end. I’m incredibly grateful to have the ability to select this end.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last year, were well worth their triumph with striker Inaki Williams often bothering the Barca defense.
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Meanwhile Barca and Bayern Munich have reached agreement to the transport of Philippe Coutinho to the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil global will initially join on a season-long loan, even with Bayern with an choice to make the deal permanent for the 27-year-old forward.
“We have observed Coutinho for quite a while. The name does not matter, just the caliber,” Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club website after the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC at Friday’s Bundesliga opening match.
“Obviously we have to finalise a few details, but we are delighted to be bringing this participant to Bayern,” additional Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who joined Barcelona for a reported $170 million from Liverpool in 2018, has fought to make an impact in Spain after starring in the English Premier League.
He became the next most expensive player ever when he made the move to Barcelona.
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