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 sustained a calf injury through pre-season and with no Argentine, Barca looked fairly ordinary as substitute Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley from the game’s closing moments sealed Bilbao’s surprise triumph.
“The contest has set us into our location,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told Bloomberg. “We were not us.”
Last season, Barcelona coasted into the La Liga title, dropping only three times and completed 11 points clear from second-place Atletico Madrid. Messi has been the league’s leading scorer with 34 goals.
But went right for the winner on Friday. Barca striker Luis Suarez, who scored 33 goals last year, hit the pole in the first half but soon afterwards limped off with an accident.
“Tests carried out on Saturday morning have verified that first team participant Luis Su??rez has an injured right calf,” said Barca’s website on Saturday. “His comeback will dictate that his return to action”
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Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann made their debuts for Barca, but it had been the 38-year-old Aduriz who delivered the game’s magnificent finale.
“Sometimes football can be so beautiful,” Aduriz told reporters. “It will be impossible to not miss this but what has a beginning and an end. I am incredibly thankful to have the ability to decide on this end.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last season, 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 for the transport of Philippe Coutinho into the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil international will initially combine to a season-long loan, with Bayern with an option to make the deal permanent for the 27-year-old forward.
“We have watched Coutinho for quite a while. The name doesn’t matter, only the caliber,” Bayern main Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club’s website after the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC in Friday’s Bundesliga opening match.
“Obviously we still have to finalise a few details, but we’re thrilled to be bringing this player to Bayern,” additional Bayern sporting manager Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who joined Barcelona for a reported $170 million in Liverpool from 2018, has struggled to make an impact in Spain after starring at the English Premier League.
He became the third most expensive player in history when he made the move to Barcelona.

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