(CNN) — Missing Lionel Messi, La Liga winner Barcelona stumbled to a 1-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday as the Spanish league season got underway in thrilling fashion.
Messi lasted a calf injury during pre-season and without the Argentine, Barca looked distinctly normal as replacement Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley in the game’s final minutes sealed Bilbao’s shock win.
“The competition has placed us into our place,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told Bloomberg. “We were not us”
Last year, Barcelona coasted into the La Liga title, losing just three times and completed 11 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid. Messi has been the league’s top scorer with 34 goals.
But little went right for the winner on Friday. Barca striker Luis Suarez, who scored 33 goals last season, hit the pole in the first half but shortly afterwards limped off with the injury.
“Tests completed on Saturday morning have confirmed that first team participant Luis Su??rez has an injured right wing,” said Barca’s website on Saturday. “His recovery will soon dictate that his return to action”
READ: Real Madrid heads into the new year with more questions than answers
READ: World’s finest soccer celebrities are playing too much
Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann made their debuts for Barca, however, it was the 38-year-old Aduriz who delivered the match dramatic finale.
“Sometimes football can be so beautiful,” Aduriz told reporters. “It’ll be impossible to not miss this but everything has a start and an end. I am incredibly grateful to be able to decide on this end.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last year, were well worth their triumph with striker Inaki Williams often bothering the Barca defense.
READ: the megabucks soccer star’s isolation
READ:’Adrian!” Klopp hails the goalkeeper of Liverpool
Meanwhile, the Barca and Bayern Munich have reached agreement for the transfer of Philippe Coutinho to the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil international will initially combine to a season-long loan, even together 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 doesn’t matter, just the caliber,” Bayern main Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club website following the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC at Friday’s Bundesliga opening game.
“Obviously we still have to finalise some details, but we’re delighted to be bringing this player to Bayern,” added Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who combined Barcelona for a reported $170 million from Liverpool in 2018, has struggled to make an impact in Spain after filming in the English Premier League.
He became the third most expensive player in history when he chose to Barcelona.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *