BARCELONA

Griezmann behind Dembélé and Fati for 2nd home game in a row

The second sub's role in a row at home surprised many as Valverde has started to drop hints that Griezmann is not untouchable in his Barcelona side.

Ernesto Valverde said Antoine Griezmann's trip to New York at the weekend had nothing to do with his absence from the starting XI against Real Valladolid on Tuesday night. There is no reason not to believe him because his last two starts on the bench (Sevilla and Valladolid) have been a question of tactics. Valverde prefers pure wingers, Dembélé and Ansu Fati, to make the pitch wider. 

But those two games, both at home, where Griezmann had to suffice with a role off the bench have caused surprise given his status in the squad and his price last summer. Especially the most recent game in which Ansu Fati, who turns 17 on Thursday, started ahead of him. At the end of the game there was a play that was symbolic of Griezmann's situation. Suárez took the ball with Griezmann on the left available if the Uruguayan passed to him but he didn't lift his head and instead played the ball to Messi, who shot wide. The play is open to interpretation but Griezmann wasn't a fan and didn't really mix with Messi and Suárez afterwards.

Reading too much into his two substitute appearances might be to sensationalise it but it's not something entirely normal either. The very best players always wants to play together, especially the games at home. Griezmann has played well in the Camp Nou with two goals against Real Betis and another against Villarreal along with an assist against Valencia. But that's two homes games in a row now and he was replaced by Dembélé against Slavia Prague, which hasn't pushed him on.

Griezmann keeping his head down to start life at Barcelona

Keeping a low profile since his arrival, Griezmann doesn't want to make a scene. Until now, he has been doing his part as a false winger on the left despite the fact that it isn't his best position. On Tuesday, however, his stance looked different. 

That final play by Suárez seemed to change something. It was interesting to watch as Griezmann might now be considering that his status in the team is not what it should be given his performances for Atlético Madrid for so many years and the price Barcelona paid for him in the summer. He might be thinking now that his signing was a club decision rather than one made by the manager. Of course, Valverde wanted him before he sent out 'The Decision' documentary but that movie did not sit well in the dressing room even though those asked about it tried to act normal. There is a certain feeling that the relationships amongst those same people are a little frayed. That documentary destroyed some potential chemistry.

In principle, Griezmann will return to the team against Levante on Saturday. It is possible that he will play in place of Suárez, who is a due a rest. After that, the Slavia Prague return leg is up at the Camp Nou. If he was rested on Tuesday because of rotations, he should start in the Champions League too. Valverde has started to leave hints that the latest to arrive in Barcelona's front three is the weakest link. Griezmann is not untouchable.