Lionel Messi suffered a serious knee injury which will sideline him for up to eight weeks after hobbling off in FC Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas on Saturday.
Barca had been humiliated 4-1 at Celta Vigo in midweek and hopes of a trouble-free afternoon were ended after just 10 minutes when Messi injured his left knee in a clash with Pedro Bigas.
Luis Suarez ensured the Argentine’s absence didn’t lead to another slip-up as he powered in a header to open the scoring before sweeping home his fourth goal of the season after the break.
Even without Messi, Barca’s woes from the penalty spot continued, though, as Neymar blasted over from the spot 24 minutes from time.
And Jonathan Viera’s deflected effort three minutes from the end left the European champions hanging on for the final whistle.
Real Madrid can move back ahead of the Catalans on top of the table with victory when they host Malaga later on Saturday.
Messi was injured as he tried to turn the ball home after taking a wonderful first touch inside the area.
The four-time World Player of the Year briefly returned to the field after receiving treatment, but was clearly unable to run freely before he was replaced by Munir El Haddadi.
FC Barcelona later confirmed Messi faces an eight-week absence
“Tests have confirmed that Leo Messi suffered a torn internal collateral knee ligament. The estimated time out will be seven to eight weeks,” FC Barcelona said in a statement
Suarez and Neymar’s movement proved too much for the Las Palmas defence to handle and the hosts should have been in front when the former’s cross was just too strong for the Brazilian to turn home.
The former Liverpool striker made amends on 25 minutes as he rose to head home Sergi Roberto’s inch-perfect cross from the right to settle Barca’s nerves.
However, the visitors had their chances to equalise on their first league visit to the Camp Nou for 13 years as Viera forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action with a long range effort before firing over with a clearer sight of goal minutes later.
Barca made sure of a return to winning ways thanks to a wonderful team move seven minutes after the break as Neymar picked out Munir and his cross was left by Sergio Busquets for Suarez to fire into the top corner.
Suarez was involved once more as his trickery forced former Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz into handling inside the area.
The Uruguayan unselfishly gave up the chance of netting a hat-trick to allow Neymar to take responsibility from the spot, but he blasted over.
Barca were then forced to see out a nervous last few minutes as Las Palmas took advantage of an error from Javier Mascherano to pull a goal back as Viera’s shot deflected in off Gerard Pique.