Setien era begins with Fati joining Messi and Griezmann in Barcelona attack

By Sports Desk January 19, 2020

Ansu Fati is set for only his fourth LaLiga start after being given the nod to line up against Granada in new coach Quique Setien's first match in charge.

Setien was appointed on Monday following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, though he has resisted any urge to make wholesale changes.

Barca's last outing saw them lose 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final, with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez leading the line.

But since then Suarez has been ruled out for most of the season after having knee surgery, resulting in a rethink in attack.

The one to benefit from Suarez's absence is 17-year-old Fati, who broke into the first-team squad at the start of the season.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen returns in goal following a spell out with a knee injury, while the much-maligned Ivan Rakitic takes the place of the suspended Frenkie de Jong in midfield.

Setien's arrival was seen as a positive for the club's promising youngsters, with the likes of Riqui Puig – who hardly had a look-in under Valverde – brought to train with the senior side straight away.

Puig, 20, is among the substitutes at Camp Nou, as is fellow La Masia product Carles Perez.

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    Messi had gone over a month without a goal in LaLiga before Saturday but once he found his groove there was no hope for hapless Eibar, as Barca's talisman tore the visitors apart at will.

    Much of the build-up to the contest had been dominated by off-field matters, including the controversial out-of-window signing of Martin Braithwaite and president Josep Maria Bartomeu denying the club hired a firm to "damage the image" of players past and present, including Messi.

    Yet Messi appeared unencumbered by the controversies, the Argentina superstar scoring a wonderful treble in the first half before adding a fourth after the break. A goal for Arthur late on completed a handsome triumph ahead of a potentially season-defining week, which includes clashes with Napoli and Real Madrid.

    The white handkerchiefs were being waved with vigour in the direction of Bartomeu by many supporters even before kick-off, and for a moment early on in the contest they looked to have another reason to fume, as Sergi Enrich emphatically headed in Jose Angel's cross.

    But the offside flag spared Barca from falling behind and Messi soon took charge, opening the scoring with a remarkable goal – coolly clipping a delicate effort past Marko Dmitrovic having nutmegged Anaitz Arbilla and held off Papa Diop.

    It was 2-0 in the 37th minute, Messi again driving into the box and picking out the bottom-right corner with aplomb.

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    The hosts appeared to ease off after the break, with the only notable opportunity before the hour-mark seeing Ivan Rakitic thwarting by Dmitrovic after Griezmann's cross.

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    A hero for Portugal, Sporting CP, Manchester United and Real Madrid across a decorated career, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has racked up a succession of impressive landmarks.

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    Perhaps the finest free-kick Ronaldo has struck in his career.

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    Almeria v Real Madrid: April 15, 2010

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    Sevilla v Real Madrid: December 17, 2011

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    Real Madrid v Valencia: May 4, 2014

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    Real Madrid v Espanyol: January 31, 2016

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    Hungary v Portugal: June 22, 2016

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    Juventus v Real Madrid: April 3, 2018

    Arguably the best goal Ronaldo has produced.

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    Portugal v Spain: June 15, 2018

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    Juventus v Manchester United: November 8, 2018

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