Barca breeze without Messi

A Lionel Messi-less Barcelona put a minor scare behind them to defeat Granada 4-1 on Sunday and keep the title race in La Liga going for another week.

Barca reverted to a 4-3-3 formation for their trip to Los Carmenes, with Jeremy Mathieu and Rafinha replacing the injured Gerard Pique and suspended Messi.

Guillermo Ochoa, the goalkeeper with the most saves in Europe’s top Leagues this season, got down low to make a vital block on Luis Suarez after the striker had sprung Granada’s offside trap.

Barca suffered a blow when Rafinha pulled up with a knee injury. The midfielder’s place was taken by Paco Alcacer, in a rare appearance for the striker.

Suarez’s audacious lob then caught Ochoa off-guard and clipped the bar, before Neymar was correctly flagged offside.

The first half quickly became the Ochoa-Suarez show as the goalkeeper pushed away the No 9’s piledriver. Alcacer was on hand to pick up the rebound and cut the ball back for the Uruguayan, but his point-blank finish was deflected just wide.

Suarez then only had Ochoa to beat in the Granada box, but the Mexican stood his ground, although David Lomban appeared to be holding the Barca man around his neck.

Moments after Ochoa denied Neymar from rounding him, however, Suarez dashed onto Jordi Alba’s cross-field pass and executed an exquisite lob over Ochoa.

Barely a few seconds of the restart passed before Ochoa needed to keep out another Suarez shot, yet the Catalans’ high line remained unnecessarily high as a ball was easily slotted through for Jeremie Boga to angle across Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Parity didn’t last for long as fantastic hold-up play from Suarez saw him lift the ball over the top for Alcacer, who smacked a finish home on the half-volley.

A corner fell straight to Mathieu in the penalty area, but the defendr snatched at his finish and sent the ball the wrong side of the post.

Uche Agbo, meanwhile, received his second booking in quick succession after an elbow into Neymar’s face, leaving Granada down to 10 men.

That was quickly followed by Ivan Rakitic finding the bottom-left corner of Ochoa’s net for 3-1, before Alcacer’s inch-perfect ball across the custodian’s goal was put away by Neymar.

Barca could’ve ended the game with six to their name, but the No 11 had another shot saved by Ochoa, before hitting the post in stoppage time.

Granada 1-4 Barcelona

Boga 50, Uche sent off 82 (G) Suarez 44, Alcacer 64, Saunier og 83, Neymar 90 (B)

Granada: Ochoa; Foulquier, Saunier, Lomban, Gaston (Cuenca 78), Hector; Angban (Boga 46), Uche, Wakaso; Pereira; Kravets (Ramos 55)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Rakitic (Alena 87), Busquets, Gomes (Iniesta 67); Rafinha (Alcacer 17), Suarez, Neymar

Referee: Jaime Latre