Barcelona coach Quique Setien said bringing Antoine Griezmann on earlier against Atletico Madrid risked “destabilising” the team after leaving the Frenchman on the bench for the third time in four games.
Griezmann came on in second-half stoppage time against his former side as Barca were held to a 2-2 draw which further damaged their flagging title hopes. If Real Madrid beat Getafe on Thursday, they will move four points clear with just five games to play.
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Setien opted for a midfield four against Atletico and when he did eventually bring on another attacker, in the 85th minute, he opted for Ansu Fati. Griezmann, a €120 million signing from Atletico last summer, finally came on with just three minutes of additional time remaining.
“The problem is not everyone can play,” Setien told Movistar when asked about the World Cup winner’s absence. “We have to make decisions. Maybe it wasn’t logical to bring him on [that late], but it was worse to not do so.
“A player like him can always do something. We didn’t bring him on before because the team was doing well, Riqui [Puig] was doing well, we always try to have [Luis] Suarez and [Lionel] Messi on the pitch. It is difficult to find a place [for Griezmann] without destabilising the team.”
Griezmann, 29, has been ever-present in his first season at Camp Nou, scoring 14 goals, but he’s fallen out of favour in recent weeks.
He started on the bench against Sevilla, Celta Vigo and now Atletico — three games which Barca drew — as the Blaugrana have given up a two-point lead over Madrid at the top of the table.
“I don’t agree with that I have no confidence in him,” Setien added in a news conference. “He’s an important player but I understand it’s tough for him to come on with so little time left.
“I will speak with him [on Wednesday]. I won’t say sorry because [it’s about] decisions, but I understand he may feel bad and I feel bad for him because he’s a great person and a great…