Barcelona’s injury woes place extra pressure on Antoine Griezmann
Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann is under pressure to deliver on his home debut against Real Betis on Monday morning (Singapore time), with the La Liga champions facing an injury crisis in attack as they look to respond to last week's surprise defeat by Athletic Bilbao.
The 1-0 loss was Barca's first opening-day defeat in 11 years and their early-season jitters were further compounded when striker Luis Suarez and electric winger Ousmane Dembele were ruled out for at least a month with muscle problems.
Lionel Messi missed the trip to Bilbao with a calf injury and, although Barca's all-time top scorer has returned to training, he is unlikely to be handed a starting berth, given he missed most of pre-season.
With the Catalan side shorn of three of their top forwards, all eyes will be on Griezmann in his first appearance at the Nou Camp since his 120-million-euro (S$184.2m) move from Atletico Madrid, and not least because Barca need a win to kickstart their season.
The France forward was largely ineffective against Athletic as he struggled to influence play from wide positions, and then saw even less of the ball as he moved into the centre-forward's role after Suarez was forced off injured.
Griezmann tends to perform best when playing off a centre-forward such as Olivier Giroud with France or Diego Costa at Atletico.
But he will be expected to lead the attack against Betis, with Rafinha and Sergi Roberto likely to be the wide forwards and Messi potentially playing a role as a substitute.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde challenged Griezmann to be more involved against Betis.
"Griezmann has to be more involved in the play and always be looking to get involved," he said. "It is good to have him near the area because of his movement, but that will work only if we completely dominate games." - REUTERS