(CNN) — Missing Lionel Messi, La Liga champion Barcelona stumbled on a 1-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday as the Spanish league season got underway in exciting fashion.
Messi endured a calf injury throughout pre-season and without the Argentine, Barca looked fairly ordinary as substitute Aritz Aduriz’s stunning acrobatic volley from the game’s closing minutes sealed Bilbao’s surprise triumph.
“The competition has put us into our location,” Barca defender Gerard Pique told Bloomberg. “We weren’t us”
Last season, Barcelona coasted to the La Liga title, losing only three times and completed 11 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid. Messi has been the league’s leading scorer with 34 goals.
But went right for the Spanish champion on Friday. Barca striker Luis Suarez, who scored 33 goals last season, hit the pole in the first half but soon afterwards limped off with an accident.
“Tests carried out on Saturday morning have verified that team player Luis Su??rez has an injured right wing,” said Barca’s website on Saturday. “His comeback will 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 match dramatic finale.
“Sometimes football can be so amazing,” Aduriz told reporters. “It will be impossible to not overlook this but everything has a start and an end. I’m incredibly thankful to have the ability to pick this ending.”
Bilbao, who finished eighth last year, were well worth their triumph with striker Inaki Williams frequently troubling the Barca defense.
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Meanwhile, the Barca and Bayern Munich have reached agreement to the transport of Philippe Coutinho into the Bundesliga team.
The 27-year-old Brazil international will initially join on a season-long loan, even together with Bayern having an choice to make the deal permanent to the 27-year-old forward.
“We’ve observed Coutinho for quite some time. The title does not matter, just the quality,” Bayern chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the club website following the 2-2 draw with Hertha BSC at Friday’s Bundesliga opening game.
“Clearly we still have to finalise a few details, but we are thrilled to be bringing this player to Bayern,” added Bayern sporting manager Hasan Salihamidzic.
Coutinho, who combined Barcelona for a reported $170 million from Liverpool in 2018, has fought to make an effect in Spain after starring in the English Premier League.
He became the third most expensive player in history when he chose to Barcelona.
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