Is Barcelona fading OUT?


​Barcelona let a late lead slip as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Estadio El Sadar by newly-promoted Osasuna.

The hosts broke the deadlock after less than seven minutes as wideman Brendan Thomas beat Clement Lenglet before clipping a ball across to the unmarked Roberto Torres, the striker rifling his volley past a helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Ernesto Valverde’s men proceeded to dominate possession and dictate play from deep, yet they rarely threatened as Osasuna made it to half-time with their lead still intact. Arguably, Los Rojillos looked likeliest to grab the game’s second goal, offering an aerial threat at corners.

Lionel Messi’s calf injury has seen him miss ​La Blaugrana’s first three matches of the 2019/20 ​La Liga season, the team once again looking lost for ideas without their talismanic captain in Pamplona.

As senior players struggled to break down a resolute Osasuna backline, 16-year-old substitute Ansu Fati picked up the gauntlet for Barcelona. Having been brought on at the break, the winger made an instant impact as he guided Carles Perez’s cross into the corner of the net.

Without Messi in the team, Barça look very beatable. The Argentine is expected to return after next week’s international break, but his teammates have been exposed in his absence.

It’s never a good sign when a club is hugely dependent on one player, even when that man happens to be a five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Were the 32-year-old’s injury struggles to continue into the autumn, an early ​Champions League exit would not be too surprising.

Valverde’s side have been drawn in a group with ​Inter, Slavia Prague and ​Borussia Dortmund, with both the Italians and Germans more than capable of hurting the ​La Liga giants. 

Before that, however, the Catalans simply must get their domestic campaign back on track or risk having to play catch up with ​Real Madrid and their city rivals ​Atletico. Failure to do so would leave their manager staring down the barrel.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: ter Stegen (6); Semedo (5), Pique (6), Lenglet (4), Alba (5); Busquets (7), Roberto (5), De Jong (6); Perez (7), Rafinha (5), Griezmann (5).

Substitutes: Fati (7*), Arthur (7), Vidal (5).

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