Barcelona will have to wait to qualify from Group D of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League after being held to a 0-0 draw by Olympiakos at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis on Tuesday night.
The Blaugrana dominated the match but saw marquee strikers Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi miss several chances. This stalemate, along with Sporting Lisbon's 1-1 draw at home to Juventus, means Barca missed the chance to qualify this week, although the club remains in control of the group on 10 points.
Barca manager Ernesto Valverde stuck with the 4-4-2 formation he has been relying on recently, while Olympiakos played Kostas Fortounis as a false nine. Both clubs revealed their starting lineups prior to kick-off:
FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona
🔵🔴 Barça XI #OlympiacosBarça https://t.co/dFXoSrDsiP2017-10-31 18:28:23
Olympiacos FC @olympiacos_org
Η ενδεκάδα μας για το ματς με την Μπαρτσελόνα. / The starting XI vs @FCBarcelona. #olympiacos #OlympiacosBarça #OlyBarça @championsleague https://t.co/YVNDKszUzd2017-10-31 18:48:33
Olympiakos had a strong shout for a penalty after 16 minutes when Omar Elabdellaoui was tripped by Samuel Umtit after shooting. The referee waved away the protests, but Umtiti's challenge was definitely a risky one.
At the other end, Denis Suarez thought he had given the visitors the lead moments later after being played in by Messi, but the linesman's flag ruled out the Spaniard's finish. Suarez was catching the eye in an advanced midfield role as he played through both namesake Luis and Messi, but Barca's star strikers uncharacteristically wasted the chances.
A superb linkup between Suarez and Messi on the stroke of half-time saw the latter denied only by a superb last-ditch tackle. Meanwhile, Valverde was forced into a change in the final seconds before the break when Sergi Roberto injured his hamstring while committing a foul that earned him a yellow card.
Winger Gerard Deulofeu came on for Roberto just before the whistle sounded to end the half. ESPN FC's Samuel Marsden relayed a bleak early prognosis for versatile Roberto:
Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden
Looks like a hamstring tear for Sergi Roberto. Barça say more tests in the morning but not looking great.2017-10-31 20:58:58
Barca duly upped the pace of their passing in the second half but still struggled to fashion a breakthrough. Deulofeu saw several low deliveries across the box cut out just before they reached their targets.
The away side was lacking impetus and imagination in possession, so Valverde brought Ivan Rakitic off the bench for Paulinho, who had struggled to exert himself on the night.
Barcelona should have been in front seconds later when Suarez wriggled free in the box and teed up Messi. Yet the latter's misfiring in front of goal continued as he dragged his shot wide.
Suarez also couldn't find his range after wasting three more chances as the match settled into a pattern of attack against defence for the final 20 minutes.
Sensing the game was still there for the taking, Olympiakos brought Colombian striker Felipe Pardo on for the final 12 minutes. Still, it was Barca who should have gone in front when Suarez raced clear yet again, only to see his lob crash off the top of the bar.
OptaJose summed up how wasteful Suarez was in Athens:
7 - Luis Suarez attempted more shots without scoring vs Olympiakos than in any other game for Barcelona (all competitions). Halloween. https://t.co/sxRtDkNbCw2017-10-31 21:45:33
Messi nearly gave the Blaugrana the win in stoppage time, but Silvio Proto saved well.
Barca were far from impressive on the night but still maintained their unbeaten start to the season. Even so, Valverde will know his side, particularly misfiring Luis Suarez, must play better to win this tournament for a sixth time.