Griezmann draws another Barcelona blank

By Sports Desk September 21, 2019

Antoine Griezmann's problems adapting to life at Barcelona continued as he went a fourth away appearance for the club without managing a shot on target.

Barca went down 2-0 away to promoted Granada in LaLiga on Saturday, with Ernesto Valverde overseeing their worst start to a league season in 25 years.

The defending champions have taken just seven points from five games - only one of those points coming away from home - to increase the pressure on Valverde after last term's shock Champions League exit to Liverpool.

Griezmann has shouldered responsibility for Barca's goalscoring in the early weeks of the campaign. with club captain Lionel Messi yet to start a game as he recovers from a calf injury.

Luis Suarez has also been sidelined by injury, but Griezmann looked to have settled in quickly at Camp Nou when he netted a brace in a 5-2 home win over Real Betis, after which his audacious goal celebration made headlines.

It has been a struggle for the striker since then, though, with Griezmann going without a goal in six games for Barcelona and France, and his role in the Catalan side's attack appears unclear.

A controversial move from Atletico Madrid does not seem to be working out for Griezmann, with Barcelona drawing a blank in consecutive matches.

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    Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde opened the door for Arturo Vidal's departure in January, acknowledging the LaLiga champions have a lot of midfielders.

    Vidal has been linked with a move to Serie A outfit Inter as the Barcelona midfielder struggles for regular game time at Camp Nou.

    The 32-year-old Chilean has made 14 appearances across all competitions this season, though only four have been starts.

    Speaking ahead of Saturday's match against Real Mallorca, Valverde told reporters: "Vidal is our player. We are happy with him. There are so many rumours. We will see tomorrow if he plays or not.

    "And when the January transfer window arrives, we will see what happens."

    "There's a lot of things going on in January but it's true that we have a lot of midfielders," Valverde said. "Some have played more than others but all of them are needed."

    Ivan Rakitic is another midfielder, whose future with Barcelona is up in the air as the Croatia international eyes regular football.

    Rakitic – a reported target for Inter and former club Sevilla – has only made two LaLiga starts this term.

    "He's a reliable player in a lot of ways," Valverde added. "In the same way that there have been moments when he has not featured, he has continued training [with the same intensity] to seize his opportunity.

    "He's played at a good level [in the last two games] and we're happy with that. We'll see what happens in the next few games. He has emerged in a difficult period."

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    Simeone's Atletico failed to win for the third consecutive LaLiga match following Friday's stalemate away to Villarreal.

    It was another toothless showing by sixth-placed Atletico, who have only scored 16 goals through as many league games this season.

    "It is normal that when you generate so many chances and do not convert, anxiety appears," Simeone told reporters. "And more anxiety, less precision. 

    "When anxiety disappears, tranquillity and precision will come from the players we have. Today we had clear occasions, Joao Felix and [Renan] Lodi's, but we did not define them correctly."

    Atletico could end the weekend seven points adrift of third-placed Sevilla and eight behind leaders Barcelona.

    "At the moment, what worries me is to win a game and everything will be looked after in a different way," Simeone said.

    Atletico captain Koke added: "In front of goal we have no fortune, precision or I do not know what is missing. To win you have to score goals.

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    Diego Simeone was looking for a response to the 1-0 defeat to Barcelona that left them trailing LaLiga's top three by five points, but a wasteful showing meant they were unsuccessful.

    A rip-roaring opening 45 minutes produced chances aplenty at either end, but the post and poor finishing stopped Atletico from taking advantage, while Jan Oblak was in inspired form in the visitors' net.

    After the break there was initially a similar pattern to the contest, before Atletico upped the ante towards the end, but a woeful miss from Renan Lodi summed up their performance.

    A thrilling first half began with three opportunities inside the first 15 minutes.

    Oblak acrobatically stopped Samuel Chukwueze's long-range effort and then parried away Gerard Moreno's header, before Joao Felix's 30-yard strike hit the right-hand post.

    Joao Felix wasted an even better opportunity 10 minutes later, firing over when played through on goal by Koke.

    But Atletico again had to rely on Oblak when he tipped Manu Trigueros' brilliant dipping volley on to the roof of the net just after the half hour.

    Proceedings resumed at a similarly blistering pace and Villarreal should have taken the lead – Chukwueze inexplicably missing the target after being fed into the box by Trigueros.

    Lodi somehow eclipsed Chukwueze's haplessness, however, shooting over from close range following Joao Felix's cross and that proved to be Atletico's final clear-cut chance.

    What does it mean? Leading pack almost out of sight for Atletico

    After Atletico's 1-0 defeat to Barcelona, Diego Simeone claimed he was not paying the Blaugrana nor Real Madrid any mind. Rather, he highlighted the increasing gap between themselves and Sevilla.

    Atleti could end the weekend eight points adrift of Julen Lopetegui's men, while Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao will fancy their chances of moving four points clear of the capital club.

    Creative spark Trigueros carves Atleti open

    Villarreal playmaker Trigueros enjoyed a wonderful display. Playing in a forward-thinking role, the midfielder was the hosts' creator-in-chief and was excellent, laying on a match-high five chances.

    Morata fades into the background

    Although Villarreal boast one of LaLiga's best attacks, they are by no means watertight at the back. Alvaro Morata would have fancied his chances of causing trouble, but he was largely ineffective and was fortunate to escape a second yellow card for a nasty foul on Raul Albiol.

    What's next?

    Atletico return to Champions League action at home to Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday, before hosting Osasuna in LaLiga. Villarreal face another tricky test next weekend as they travel to Sevilla.

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