Koeman missing Messi magic

22 August 2021 20:19:21 GMTPlus11
Koeman rueing Messi departure.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman admits his team will miss the edge Lionel Messi used to give them in tight games after being held to a 1-1 draw by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

The Blaugrana made it four points from their opening two La Liga games and are now 9/2 to be crowned Spanish champions this season, while title holders Atletico Madrid are 5/2.

Having impressed on the opening weekend when defeating Real Sociedad 4-2, the trip to Bilbao proved a far more testing encounter for the now Messi-less Barca.

The visitors to San Mames fell behind in the 50th minute when Inigo Martinez got away from the Barcelona defenders to head home Iker Munian's corner.

Having struggled to create too many clear cut openings, Koeman's side came to life in the latter stages and got back on level terms through Memphis Depay as he rifled in his first goal for the club with 15 minutes to go.

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Bilbao nearly snatched the win late on when a mistake by Eric Garcia allowed Nico Williams to break away, only for Garcia to bring him down and receive a red card for denying Williams the chance to score.

A tricky night for Barca was compounded by the news that Gerard Pique picked up a calf injury in the clash, leaving Koeman short of options at centre-half with Garcia now suspended.

Koeman rues Messi exit

The Dutch tactician says on the balance of the game a draw was a fair result, but couldn't help wondering what the outcome might have been had Messi, who left in the summer to join Paris Saint-Germain, had still been in the team.

"I don't like to always talk about it, but we are talking about the best player in the world," as per reports from Marca.

"The opposition is more afraid when Messi is there.

"If you give Leo a pass, he usually doesn’t lose the ball. You can tell he is not here. We know that but it can’t be changed."

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