Barcelona coach Luis Enrique likely thought that a match against promoted Alaves would be a good opportunity to give most of his stars the day off.
The defending La Liga champions guessed wrong, as Alaves pulled off a stunning 2-1 upset at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Not even Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Andres Iniesta going on for the last half hour could turn around a result that left Real Madrid alone at the top of the table after three rounds.
It was a day of firsts at Camp Nou.
Paco Alcacer and goalie Jasper Cillessen debuted for Barcelona, and Neymar saw his first minutes for the Catalan club since returning from a long summer with Brazil, which included a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
Even better for Alaves, it was a first win in Spain’s top flight since its 10-year run in the second and third divisions.
Built around a group of journeymen brought in this summer along with new coach Mauricio Pellegrino, the modest club from the Basque Country proved to be disciplined in defense and crafty enough to get the utmost from its scarce chances.
“We didn’t have our day,” Luis Enrique said. “We were imprecise, and they scored two goals on three shots. That is a good summary of the match.”
Barcelona appeared to be in control until Kiko Femenia crossed for Deyverson, who muscled past Javier Mascherano before poking the ball under Cillessen.
Jeremy Mathieu headed Barcelona level right after halftime, only for Ibai Gomez to put Alaves back in front after a poor clearance by Mascherano.
“We worked very hard for this,” Pellegrino said. “I hope the team can keep growing and that this will help us going forward.”