Lionel Messi was back in Barcelona in time to watch his team-mates take on Eibar at the Camp Nou in La Liga on Tuesday.
The captain has been in Argentina over the Christmas period and coach Ronald Koeman confirmed before the match Messi has been given permission to extend his break as he has been having treatment on an ankle problem.
Yet the Argentina international has now returned to Barcelona and was able to take in his team playing their final game of 2020 at the Camp Nou.
Messi was spotted in the stands along with injured team-mates Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto. Jordi Alba was also in the stadium to take in the action as he is serving a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation.
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Koeman Sticks With New Formation
Koeman opted to stick with a 3-5-2 formation against Eibar. The Dutch coach experimented with the new system last time out and saw his team run out 3-0 winners against Real Valladolid.
The Barca boss named Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, and Ronald Araujo as his three center-backs once again, while Junior Firpo came in for Jordi Alba at left wing-back.
Miralem Pjanic got the nod ahead of Sergio Busquets in midfield with Pedri and Frenkie de Jong also in the starting XI. Koeman also recalled Antoine Griezmann in attack to play alongside Martin Braithwaite.
Barca Miss Early Penalty
Barca missed the chance to take an early lead at the Camp Nou after being awarded a penalty when Araujo was fouled in the penalty area. Messi is Barca’s usual penalty-taker but that duty went to Braithwaite in the captain’s absence.
Yet the Denmark international failed to convert the early opportunity, dragging a shot past the dive of goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović but also wide of the post.
It’s not the first time this season Baraca have missed a penalty when Messi has been missing from the line-up.
Braithwaite thought he had made amends on 25 minutes with the opening goal. The striker converted a cross from Junior Firpo but saw his effort disallowed by VAR for a marginal offside.
Barcelona ended up going behind in the second half after another defensive error. Araujo gave the ball away inside his own half, allowing Kike to run through on goal and place the ball past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Yet Eibar’s lead did not last too long as the hosts leveled 10 minutes later. Substitute Ousmane Dembele fired the ball past Dmitrović after good build-up playing involving Pedri and Junior Firpo.
Barca pressed hard for a winner in the closing stages and went close but could not conjure up another goal. It’s a disappointing result for the Catalan giants who drop points yet again in La Liga to lie seven points behind leaders Atletico having played two games more than the Rojiblancos.