Luis Suarez scored the only goal of the game as Barcelona avenged their Super Cup defeat to Athletic Bilbao. The former Liverpool man scored a fine volleyed goal after the break to grab the three points for Luis Enrique’s side.
Despite Lionel Messi missing a penalty in the first half, it still did not stop Barca securing the victory in their attempt to defend their title.
With Neymar still missing through illness, there was a notable absence on the left-wing, as well as injuries during the game to Sergio Busquets and Dani Alves, this could be a challenging time for Catalan club.
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Barcelona are missing Pedro
Neymar missed the game with tonsillitis and could return in a few weeks’ time, if this would have happened last season there would have been a simple solution – Pedro.
The Spaniard secured his move to Chelsea last week and scored on his debut against West Bromwich Albion.
Pedro was the ultimate replacement if one of Barcelona’s front three was missing. The winger clearly enjoyed being an integral part of a team under Mourinho, rather than being a glorified super-sub at Barca.
Rafinha started yesterday on the left-hand-side and did simply not impress. Pedro would have been more pacey and direct, but it was evident that Barcelona struggled to break down the stubborn Bilbao defence.
Barcelona lack squad depth
With Dani Alves injured early in the first half, Sergi Roberto, a traditional central midfielder, was tasked with playing at right-back for the remainder of the game.
Roberto got forward a number of times, displaying real speed and tactical awareness, but also defended well when called upon.
Barcelona are light on right-backs until Aleix Vidal can officially join the team once the transfer ban is lifted in January.
Perhaps the biggest miss for Barcelona could be the absence of Sergio Busquets. Luis Enrique lacks any other defensive minded midfielders, although he can use Javier Mascherano in that role if needed.
Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu will return from suspension next week, which could facilitate Mascherano to move to the midfield.
With players such as Pedro and Alex Song missing from the squad, as well as Vidal and Arda Turan not able to be registered until the New Year, Barca could struggle if a number of key players become injured.
Messi looks fatigued
It goes without saying that Messi rarely has a poor game, but he clearly looked a little jaded or even slightly unfit.
There were still a few mazy runs and the odd bit of skill, but really failed to exert his influence against Bilbao.
The biggest criticism you can say was his somewhat poor penalty, well by his incredibly high standard.
Perhaps the Argentinian superstar will need a few competitive games to up his fitness levels and to get that match sharpness back that on his day makes him the best player in the world, but after another long pre-season travelling all over the world, Messi could be paying the cost of such a busy schedule.
With Neymar missing with illness and a half-fit Messi, there could be a bit more pressure on Luis Suarez to make up for his missing team-mates.