Barcelona’s poor start to the season continued with a 2-0 defeat at Granada in La Liga.
Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati both started on the bench, but were summoned at half-time after the Catalans failed to responded to Ramon Azeez scoring the opener inside two minutes.
Despite improving in the second period with Messi and Fati driving forward, Arturo Vidal’s hand ball saw Alvaro Vadillo convert from the spot in the 66th minute to complete a famous win for the hosts.
Here, we look at the performances of Barca’s players.
STARTING XI (4-3-3)
Ter Stegen 5 – An uncharacteristically nervy display from the highly rated shot-stopper. Not at fault for either goal, though.
Semedo 4 – Was under pressure defensively and not the most composed on the ball. Ineffective going forward.
Pique 4 – Ball deflected off him for the opener. Good on the ball, but grew frustrated as attackers got the better off him.
Lenglet 5 – Weak an aerial duel as the ball went through for the first goal. One of the better defenders, apart from that error.
Firpo 2 – Made not one, but two errors leading to the opening goal. Never looked comfortable, was caught out of position and misplaced passes. Hooked at half-time.
De Jong 6 – Tidy with his passing and even tried to carry the ball forward when he could. Had little support around him though.
Roberto 5 – A typically bland performance, first in midfield and then at right-back in the second half.
Rakitic 4 – Was meant to be the experienced head in midfield with Sergio Busquets on the bench, but never took control of proceedings.
Carles Perez 4 – Had one good cross in the first half but anonymous otherwise. Made way for Messi at half-time.
Luis Suarez 3 – Looks increasingly like a player well past his prime rather than one out of form. Sluggish, laborious movements as the blunt edge of Barca’s attack.
Antoine Griezmann 4 – Not quite past it just yet, but certainly on his way down. Not helped by operating in a system that doesn’t accommodate him effectively.
Messi (46′) 6 – His introduction gave Barcelona a pulse as he created a few inroads. Messi’s mere presence caused a bit of chaos in the final third.
Fati (46′) 6 – Looked a threat and with Messi – who tried to find him at every occasion – provided a spark for Barca.
Vidal (62′) 3 – Conceded a penalty for hand ball just when Fati and Messi were building up a head of steam. Granada’s second from the spot killed the tie.
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Barcelona’s 16-year-old starlet Ansu Fati was granted Spanish citizenship on Friday, a government spokeswoman said, meaning he will be able to represent Spain at international level.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s cabinet approved a request made by the justice minister to give the Guinea-Bissau-born forward Spanish citizenship during its weekly meeting, the spokeswoman said.
Fati was just seven years old when he moved in 2009 to Spain from the impoverished west African nation with his family and his startling talent meant he was invited to join Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy La Masia aged 10.
The player qualified for citizenship because he had completed the required 10 years of residency in Spain.
In August, Fati became the youngest player to score for Barcelona in La Liga and on Tuesday, the club’s youngest player to play in the Champions League.
Spain’s national coach Robert Moreno described Fati’s full debut for Barcelona last weekend as “mind-blowing” after he scored one goal and set up another in a 5-2 win over Valencia.
His first major tournament for Spain could come at the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil, which begins on October 26 and ends on November 17.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said Friday it would be a “setback” for Barca if Fati goes to the tournament, when he could miss seven games for his club.
“We will wait for him to be called up first,” said Valverde. “But it would be a setback because he is a player that is contributing a lot to us at the moment.”
Asked if he would try to persuade Fati to remain with Barcelona, Valverde said: “I don’t think he will ask me for advice about it and I don’t like giving advice very much because in football the things you know are learned by experience. Everyone has to make their own decisions.”
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde knows his side can ill afford to let their away struggles continue for much longer, but accepts Granada will give them no helping hand this weekend.
The defending champions have won both home matches this season 5-2, brushing aside the challenges of Real Betis and Valencia with ease, but have found life on the road less comfortable.
They have won just two of their last 10 competitive away matches and none of their last six, including a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao and draws with newly-promoted Osasuna and Champions League opponents Borussia Dortmund this term.
Now they face a trip to another top-flight newcomer in Granada and Valverde admits things need to change if they are to mount a successful title defence.
He told a pre-match press conference: “Away from home we’ve not been getting good results up to now.
“It’s costing us because even in the game in Pamplona, when we overturned a deficit to lead, we weren’t able to win.
“We hope to change this dynamic and we hope it happens soon. On these grounds are championships decided.”
On paper, Granada should not pose Barcelona too much of a problem.
The Catalan giants have won 15 of the last 16 encounters between the two sides and were 4-1 victors on their last visit to the Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes.
However, the Andalusian side have enjoyed a good start to life on their return to La Liga and are level with Barca on seven points after four games.
They have also scored nine times – a record only bettered by Barca and Villarreal – and Valverde has seen enough to be concerned.
He said: “They are having a good start to the season and the recently-promoted teams are dangerous. They have the positive momentum from going up.
“They are doing things well and for us it’s another problem. It’s a difficult game for us. Above all, because we haven’t won our two away games in La Liga. We can’t slip up.”
#GranadaBarça squad— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 21, 2019
1. Ter Stegen
2. N. Semedo
4. I. Rakitic
20. S. Roberto
21. F. De Jong
27. C. Pérez
31. Ansu Fati.
Barca are set to be boosted by the return of all-time record goalscorer Lionel Messi, who could make his first league appearance of the season after coming off the bench in midweek against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
That could spell bad news for Granada, who are looking to build on successive away wins over Espanyol and Celta Vigo.
Nevertheless, Granada coach Diego Martinez is preferring to look on the bright side of life back in the top flight, rather than what dangers may lie ahead this weekend.
He said: “Not even the most optimistic of our fans imagined we’d have seven points after four games.
“Facing Barca is not a problem, it’s a blessing considering that last September we were in the second division.”