Luis Suarez strike not enough as Barcelona slip to Celta Vigo draw
Barcelona dropped points for the second game in a row after a thrilling 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo on a freezing cold early kickoff at a sparsely attended Camp Nou on Saturday.
Celta, coached by former Barca assistant Juan Carlos Unzue, have a habit of bringing the best and worst out of the Catalans and in some spells Ernesto Valverde's side played their best football of the season. At others they made silly and costly mistakes.
It looked like Barca were going to get away with it when Luis Suarez made it 2-1 after the hour mark but a terrible slice of misfortune lead to Samuel Umtiti hurting his hamstring as he tried to keep up with Iago Aspas, resulting in Maxi Gomez leveling and the Frenchman hobbling off with a likely torn hamstring.
Suarez was far better than in last week's draw at Valencia and Ivan Rakitic also played well, while Lionel Messi found the net for the first time in six games in all competitions.
Umtiti's injury, which could lead to him being out for as long as two months, is harder to swallow than the dropped points, with Thomas Vermaelen hardly the most inspiring back up. Gerard Pique's form is also turning into a cause for concern.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Valverde brought Sergi Roberto back into the team, which may have been a mistake given how well Aleix Vidal performed in the Copa del Rey win over Murcia on Wednesday.
There was little else to argue about in his selections and his substitutions were logical, even if they didn't quite pay off.
Player ratings (1-10;- 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Produced an outstanding save to deny Maxi Gomez but could do nothing about Aspas netting the rebound. Averted a first defeat of the season with a brilliant stop in the second half to thwart Pione Sisto.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Back in the team for the first time in a month after recovering from injury, he worked hard but was a bit sloppy with his passes and crossing.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- Caught out of position for Celta's first goal and missed a gilt-edged chance to hit the winner, striking the near post from close range.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 6 -- Played with usual power and control but had terrible misfortune to suffer a hamstring injury just as Aspas took him on down the right, leading to the equaliser.
DF Jordi Alba, 8 -- Yet again Barca's best player alongside Messi. He is reaping the benefits of Neymar's departure, free to roam up and down the left. Working up a brilliant understanding with the Argentine, evidenced by the second goal. Also got back to defend when needed.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 -- A much improved performance from the Croatian, breaking up play frequently and making things happen in attack.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Superbly composed as usual on the ball but was nowhere to be seen for Celta's equaliser.
MF Paulinho, 7 -- Played the final pass for Messi's goal and played intelligently throughout, just lacking a bit of accuracy with his two attempts at goal.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 -- His display followed a familiar pattern for this season -- a bright, dominating performance for the first half an hour, including playing a big part in the equaliser, before losing influence and being substituted early after the break.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- Produced a complete performance, playing brilliant long and short passes as well as scoring and playing a huge role in Suarez's goal. Was not far from netting a copy of his famous goal against Getafe with a storming sprint from the halfway line in the first half. Loses marks for missing two good chances.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 -- Looked fresher than against Valencia last Sunday, enjoying the benefits of not playing in midweek, combining well with Messi as well as producing a deadly finish for his goal. Was harshly ruled offside in the first half.
MF Denis Suarez, 6 -- Gave the team an extra injection of energy but can't offer the influence and drive of Iniesta.
DF Thomas Vermaelen, N/R -- Brought on as an emergency substitute and looked off the pace, which should concern Barca given he is likely to play in next two league games.
FW Paco Alcacer, N/R -- Thrown on for final 11 minutes in search of a winner and wasn't far from finding it, but hit his shot too high.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.