(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 without the Argentine, Barca looked distinctly normal as replacement Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley from the game’s final minutes sealed Bilbao’s surprise triumph.
“The competition has placed us into our place,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told reporters. “We weren’t us”
Last year, Barcelona coasted into the La Liga title, dropping just three times and finished 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 from the first half but soon afterwards limped off with an injury.
“Tests completed on Saturday morning have verified that team player Luis Su??rez has an injured right calf,” said Barca’s site on Saturday. “His comeback will soon dictate his return to action”
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Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann made their debuts for Barca, but it was the 38-year-old Aduriz who delivered the game’s dramatic finale.
“Sometimes football can be so amazing,” Aduriz told reporters. “It will be impossible to not miss this but what has a beginning and an end. I’m incredibly grateful to have the ability to choose this ending.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last year, 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 to the transport of Philippe Coutinho to the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil global will initially combine on a season-long loan, even with Bayern with an choice to make the deal permanent for your 27-year-old forward.
“We’ve observed Coutinho for quite a while. The name doesn’t matter, just the quality,” Bayern main Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club’s website following the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC at Friday’s Bundesliga opening match.
“Clearly we have to finalise a few details, but we’re thrilled to be bringing this player to Bayern,” added Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who combined Barcelona for a reported $170 million in Liverpool in 2018, has fought to make an effect in Spain after starring at the English Premier League.
He became the next most expensive player in history when he chose to Barcelona.
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