Paulinho the hero for Barcelona against Getafe as Real Madrid’s injury woes mount
Paulinho scored his first Barcelona goal six minutes from time as the Catalan giants came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Getafe yesterday and open up a seven-point lead over Real Madrid.
Barca were dealt a double blow before half time as record signing Ousmane Dembele limped off with a hamstring injury before Gaku Shibasaki’s sensational volley put Getafe in front.
However, Barca responded thanks to their substitutes as both Denis Suarez and Paulinho came from the bench to turn the game around.
Barca manager Ernesto Valverde made just one change from the side that swept aside Italian champions Juventus 3-0 in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday with Sergi Roberto replacing Nelson Semedo at right-back.
Yet, rather than building on the momentum of four straight wins, Barca looked sluggish as Getafe enjoyed the better of the early stages.
The visitors’ flow was further disrupted when Dembele limped off with a reported hamstring injury that could see him sidelined for the coming weeks.
Barca had barely got 11 players back on the field as Gerard Deulofeu replaced the Frenchman, before they fell behind.
Roberto’s headed clearance fell invitingly for Gaku Shibasaki to thunder an unstoppable dipping volley beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Valverde was forced into another change at the start of the second period as Denis Suarez replaced Iniesta.
And it was the substitute who inspired Barca’s revival when he collected Roberto’s cut-back from the right wing before bending the ball high past Guaita into the top corner.
The hosts were hit with a sucker punch when Paulinho burst onto Lionel Messi’s through ball and smashed the ball into the far corner.
Toni Kroos added a fresh blow to a depleted Real Madrid ahead of today’s trip to in-form Real Sociedad with the German midfielder the latest of several key players ruled out.
Kroos missed training yesterday with a minor muscle problem and joins the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo and injured Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic and Jesus Vallejo on the sidelines.
“Toni has felt discomfort and we are not going to risk anything,” Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said yesterday. “In the course of the season there are complicated moments, and that’s what we have now with injuries.”
Sociedad, meanwhile, are level with Barca at the top of the table after their best start to a league season since 1981.
Ronaldo is absent once more as he completes his five-game domestic ban for pushing a referee in the Spanish Super Cup.
“We need to think that this is our last game with Cristiano out,” Zidane said.
“Tomorrow we can’t count on many players that normally play, but I believe in my players that we will perform well.”
Substitute Paulinho completed Barcelona’s fightback