Why risk Luis Suarez?
Ernesto Valverde opted to play Luis Suarez, despite the striker being at risk of missing the Atletico Madrid game if he was booked, and while he stayed out of trouble it was a poor display.
The Uruguayan lacked his usual bite as if the fear of a booking had reduced his competitive edge, and you can’t help but feel he may have been better off on the bench.
Barcelona stuck six past Girona on Saturday but looked slow and lacking in ideas against Las Palmas. The hosts deserve credit and it’s easy to blame the referee, but Barca got what they deserved.
Valverde’s plans for Atletico disrupted
Valverde opted to rest a few members of his squad with Gerard Pique not featuring at all and Ivan Rakitic, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho all on the bench.
The Barca boss had probably hoped he would not have to turn to that trio, in a bid to keep them fresh for Atletico, but threw all three on in the second half in search of a winner.
Not one of this substitutions could make an impact on the game, however, and he’ll really need to get his team selection for Sunday spot on.
Alba missed as Paulinho, Vidal and Digne disappoint
Paulinho will probably cop most of the blame for Thursday’s showing but he wasn’t the only Barcelona player to underwhelm.
Aleix Vidal and Lucas Digne were also handed chances to impress, but were both dreadfully disappointing against a side in the bottom three.
Jordi Alba was undoubtedly pleased with himself for getting the booking against Girona that ruled him out of this match, but he was seriously missed.
Atletico game is now huge for Barcelona
Barcelona’s lead at the top of the table has been trimmed to five points after they drew for the third time in five La Liga games.
The team go into Sunday’s clash not in their best form and knowing that a win for Atletico would reduce the gap to just two points.
In contrast Atletico are absolutely flying, they’ve scored nine goals in their last two games and Barca-target Antoine Griezmann is in peak form.
Messi gives Barcelona hope
The only Barcelona player to come out of Thursday’s game with any credit was Lionel Messi, who scored another brilliant free kick and looked the team’s only real threat.
Fresh from a sensational performance against Girona he was at it again on Thursday as he made countless runs at the Las Palmas defence and was constantly fouled.
Dani Castellano, Ximo Navarro, Oghenekaro Etebo and Alejandro Gálvez all went into the book for their attempts to top the Argentine and Galvez was perhaps fortunate he did not see red for his challenge.
Messi certainly appears to be in the mood at the moment and if he’s at his best on Sunday, Atletico Madrid will struggle to stop him.