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Messi brilliant, but 7/10 Coutinho provides spark from Barca bench

The ESPN FC crew discuss Atletico Madrid's chances of trimming Barcelona's La Liga lead even further when they meet at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Barcelona left Las Palmas in a huff after blowing the lead and stumbling to a 1-1 draw against Paco Jemez's struggling side, pointing their fingers firmly at referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz for dropping two points three days before Sunday's crucial top-of-the-table clash with Atletico Madrid.

Lionel Messi's arrowed free kick should have put Ernesto Valverde's side on their way to a comfortable win against the third-bottom side in the league and against a coach in Jemez who had lost his previous eight games against Barca, but they were pegged back by Jonathan Calleri's expertly placed penalty after the ball brushed against the arm of Lucas Digne.

When the final whistle blew, Barca -- especially unused substitute Gerard Pique -- turned their fire on Mateu Lahoz, who also decided against punishing Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola for handling the ball outside of his area.


The only bright side from this evening of frustration is that Luis Suarez did not get booked and is free to face Atletico and that no other players got injured or suspended before the crunch game.


Many fans will blame Mateu Lahoz for the result, but the harsh truth is, many players -- from Paulinho to Digne to Sergi Roberto to Suarez -- did not perform as everyone knows they can, they and need to take a look at themselves.

Manager rating out of 10

5 -- Valverde had no choice but to field Digne due to Jordi Alba's suspension, but the coach took a gamble in playing a constricted Suarez and starting Aleix Vidal over Philippe Coutinho, who is spending a remarkable number of minutes on the bench, considering he is the second-most expensive player ever.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Barely had to make a save, and there was nothing he could do about Calleri's perfectly placed penalty.

DF Sergi Roberto, 5 -- Playing with little ambition and with no Alba to compensate on the other flank, it meant Barca had almost no threat from the wings during the game.

DF Samuel Umtiti, 5 -- Since returning from injury, the Frenchman has not looked like the flawless defender we saw at the start of the campaign, and he had a couple of shaky moments, including being booked, although his little lapses rarely lead to any danger.

DF Thomas Vermaelen, 6 -- Looked a little lost without the experience of Pique by his side, but overall, he had little to deal with.

Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho dribbles the ball against Las Palmas.
Barcelona were instantly better when Philippe Coutinho came on for Aleix Vidal.

DF Lucas Digne, 4 -- It is hard to deny that Barca are a far less dangerous prospect when Alba is not on the pitch, not least because of the Spaniard's understanding with Messi, and once again Digne proved an inadequate replacement. He scarcely got forward during the game, and on the rare occasion he did, he misplaced a pass. Was also booked in the first half for a foul outside the area and gave away the spot-kick, even though he was terribly unlucky to be penalised.

MF Aleix Vidal, 5 -- Picked ahead of Ousmane Dembele but did not manage to prove his worth, as he saw little of the ball out on the right wing and was ineffective when he did have possession. Was the first to be hauled off by Valverde.

MF Paulinho, 5 -- This was yet another quiet performance from the Brazilian, who took few risks and rarely got forward, leaving all the attacking to Messi and Suarez. He was unsurprisingly hooked for Ivan Rakitic with 27 minutes remaining.

MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Defensively sound, as usual, but could not make a difference with his passes in to attacking areas due to his teammates' lack of mobility.

MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Did little wrong but lacked support and did not have the energy to carry the midfield forward on his own. Was substituted, as usual, in the second half, although he received 10 minutes more on the pitch than he has been used to playing this season.

FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- Comfortably Barca's best player, and every time he got forward, Las Palmas devoted resources to bringing him down, leading to four of their players getting booked purely for fouls on the Argentine. Messi sent his free kick straight into the top corner, leaving Chichizola with no chance, even though the goalkeeper knew exactly where it was going. Made one small mistake in not releasing the ball early enough to Suarez in one of Barca's first attacks.

FW Luis Suarez, 6 -- Lacked the usual fire in his belly, perhaps because he knew a booking would see him suspended from the game with Atletico. Shot straight at Chichizola in his only clear chance over the 90 minutes, although was not helped by Messi's late ball to him.


Philippe Coutinho, 7 -- Instantly gave the team a lift when he replaced Vidal, adding extra spark and pace, although his side could not make it count.

Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Was an improvement on the sluggish Paulinho, but could not provoke the reaction his side required.

Ousmane Dembele, NR -- The French youngster was a late throw of the dice from Valverde, but he hardly created any danger.

Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.


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