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Barcelona's Luis Suarez Exits vs. Athletic Bilbao with Apparent Calf Injury

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2019

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield on May 07, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona's already depleted forward line took another hit when Luis Suarez had to be substituted eight minutes before the break in the Blaugrana's opening game of the 2019/20 La Liga season away to Athletic Bilbao on Friday night.

The champions were already without Lionel Messi thanks to a calf problem, and Suarez may have fallen victim to the same ailment:

Samuel Marsden @samuelmarsden

Suarez is done. Looks like a calf problem. Barça bring on Rafinha in his place with less than 10 mins to go in the first half. Still goalless.

Barca offered an update at halftime of what proved to be a 1-0 defeat at San Mames:

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

❗@LuisSuarez9 has a muscle injury in his right leg. He will have more tests tomorrow to determine the exact extent of the injury. https://t.co/Yn1PkLKaii

Suarez had gone close to scoring just before he was withdrawn after a defensive mix-up helped play him in from close range. The Uruguay international wasted the chance by striking the post.

Shortly afterwards, Suarez required the attention of Barca's medical staff and was replaced by Rafinha:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

Suárez down and receiving treatment in the technical area just after hitting the post... Would not be good news for Barça if he can't continue

Leaving a game this early is a rarity for the usually durable No. 9:

OptaJose @OptaJose

1 - Luis Suárez has been substituted in the first half for the first time since playing @FCBarcelona_es in #LaLiga (29 substitutions). Injured https://t.co/uUwrYydtvz

If Suarez is out for a lengthy period, it will increase the burden on big-money summer import Antoine Griezmann. The former Atletico Madrid man had been counted on to provide superior support for Suarez and Messi.

Suarez may need the help given how the 32-year-old is no longer at the peak of his powers. Even so, he bagged 25 goals and 13 assists in 49 appearances last season.

What Barca lack is a true centre-forward capable of taking the prolific veteran's place. Ernesto Valverde will have to continue experimenting with Griezmann through the middle and also trusting the mercurial Ousmane Dembele to finally establish himself as a consistent match-winner.