With Lionel Messi rested for most of the match, Barcelona was held to a 1-1 home draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in its third straight setback in the Spanish league.
Messi came off the bench in the second half to set up a late equalizer by Munir El Haddadi, but he wasn’t able to lead the defending champions to victory at Camp Nou Stadium.
Real Madrid can surpass Barcelona for the league lead with a home win against Atletico Madrid in the derby match later Saturday.
Messi and Sergio Busquets were put on the bench by coach Ernesto Valverde ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League match at Tottenham on Wednesday.
It’s the first time in two years Barcelona hasn’t won in three consecutive league matches. It was coming off a home draw against Girona and a loss at then last-place Leganes.
“We had many chances but couldn’t take advantage of them,” Barcelona forward Luis Suarez said. “They scored the only time they got a shot on goal.”
Messi replaced midfielder Arturo Vidal in the 55th and provided the pass for Munir’s 84th-minute equalizer. Messi came close to scoring the winner with a late free kick, and after the match was shown a yellow card for complaining to the referee.
“We can’t depend on Messi to enter the match and solve things for us,” Suarez said.
Busquets replaced the injured Sergi Roberto early in the second half.
Athletic opened the scoring in the 41st after Oscar De Marcos got behind Barcelona defenders to complete a cross by Markel Susaeta.
Athletic was trying to win at Camp Nou for the first time since 2001. It was winless since the first round, having drawn three in a row before a 3-0 home loss against Villarreal midweek. Athletic’s third-round match at Rayo Vallecano was postponed because of security concerns at Rayo’s stadium.
Barcelona’s next league game is at Valencia, which won 1-0 at Real Sociedad earlier Sunday for its first win of the season.
Source: The Associated Press