Barcelona, Griezmann struggle
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Antoine Griezmann arrived at Camp Nou last year expecting to complete an intimidating attacking trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
One year later, the World Cup champion from France can barely get on the field as Barcelona try to defend their Spanish league title.
Griezmann was left out of the starting line-up for the second straight game on Tuesday when Barcelona hosted Atletico Madrid, the Frenchman's former club, in a game they needed to win to stay neck to neck with league leaders Real Madrid.
Instead, Barcelona coach Quique Setien opted to start 20-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig as a fourth midfielder.
After having Griezmann warming up on the sideline for most of the second half, Setien sent him on in the 90th minute even though his team had conceded an equaliser nearly half an hour before.
No miracle goal came, and the 2-2 draw left Barcelona one point behind Madrid, which can open a four-point lead with five games remaining if they beat Getafe today. Madrid also hold the tiebreaker if they finish even on points.
"It's true that it's not normal for a world champion to be brought on so late in the match. It can be hard for a player of his class, but the circumstances called for it," Setien said. "You always hope that a player of his talent can win the game for you with an individual action. But I understand it is hard for him.
"Tomorrow I will speak to him about it. I won't apologise, but I understand he may feel bad about it. I feel bad about it because he is a great player and person."
In July 2019, Barcelona paid approximately US$134 million to trigger the buyout clause in Griezmann's contract with Atletico, where he had emerged as one of Europe's top forwards.
In his five seasons at Atletico, he scored 133 goals and helped the team win a Europa League title, a Spanish Super Cup and a UEFA Super Cup.