Barcelona have failed to win their last six games without Lionel Messi in the team

SD Eibar v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Barcelona made a nightmarish start to their La Liga campaign on Friday night.

Travelling to Athletic Bilbao was always going to be a difficult challenge for their curtain-raiser, but the reigning champions must have been confident of starting with a win regardless.

They certainly came close enough to vindicating their optimism, too, with Luis Suarez hitting the post from a defensive error and Rafinha striking the crossbar after a brilliant save.

However, there looked to be something missing from Barcelona's attack and they were made to pay for their missed chances as the clock ticked towards stoppage time.

Rolling back the years, Aritz Aduriz entered the fray in the closing minutes and delivered a stunning scissor kick - his first touch of the game - to snatch all three points.

Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Barcelona

It will come as little surprise that the result prompted endless tweets about Barcelona supposedly being 'Messi FC', but is there actually any substance to those claims?

There can be no doubting that Barcelona missed their talisman in the San Mames, if nothing else, with the Argentine left on the sidelines after collecting a calf injury this summer.

And given the endless wonder goals he scored last season to bail Barcelona out, it would be pretty fair to suggest that Messi would have broken through the Bilbao defence in the end.

Athletic Club v FC Barcelona  - La Liga

Record without Messi in the team

Further to that, a statistic has emerged that seems to back the whole 'Messi FC' narrative and prove the Blaugrana just haven't been the same without their star man recently. 

That's because Barcelona have failed to win any of their last six competitive games in which Messi hasn't featured, stretching all the way back to November 2018.

Barcelona drew a blank during games with Huesca and Inter Milan, while suffering defeats to Levante, Sevilla, Celta Vigo and now Athletic Bilbao in Messi's absence.

What's more, the last time that Barcelona lost their opening game of the La Liga season was also the last time that Messi missed the opening game of a La Liga season. Ouch.

It's easy to see why so many supporters are convinced that Barcelona are becoming reliant on their star man and the early evidence seems to corroborate their suspicions. 

FC Barcelona v Arsenal - Pre-Season Friendly

Sure, any club boasting a player with the alien-like qualities of Messi will be 'reliant' to an extent, but his absence seems to be as damning as the difference between victory and defeat.

It's now in the hands of Messi's Barcelona teammates to prove that they aren't 'Messi FC" and show that defeat in Bilbao was nothing more than a slip-up. Watch this space.

Do you think Barcelona have become too dependant on Messi? Have your say in the comments section below.

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