Barcelona head coach Quique Setien admitted it is difficult to play Antoine Griezmann without "destabilising" the team as he threw the Frenchman's future into further doubt.
Griezmann was a 90th-minute substitute against former team Atletico Madrid, who earned a 2-2 draw away to defending LaLiga champions Barca on Tuesday.
A €120 million (A$195m) signing from Atletico at the start of the season, Griezmann arrived amid much hype but the star forward has struggled at Camp Nou, where he has started on the bench against Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao in recent weeks.
Explaining Griezmann's place on the bench as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Riqui Puig started in the attacking third, Setien said: "It's difficult to put him on without destabilising the team.
Griezmann has scored eight La Liga goals this season and 14 across all competitions for second-placed Barca.
However, Griezmann has not scored since Barca's 1-1 draw against Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie prior to the coronavirus pandemic in February.
"I understand it's tough for Griezmann to come on when so little time left. I will speak with him tomorrow [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 professional."
Messi scored his 700th career goal but stuttering Barca still dropped more points in the title race.
Diego Costa's 11th-minute own goal had put Barca ahead before Saul Niguez's penalty restored parity for Atletico eight minutes later.
Messi converted a penalty of his own five minutes into the second half to celebrate his landmark goal, but another Saul spot-kick – in the 62nd minute – secured a draw for Atletico.
Barca are one point behind leaders Real Madrid, who can move four clear with victory over Getafe on Thursday, as pressure mounts on Setien.
However, under-fire Barca boss Setien said: "I don't feel at all under threat.
"It's a shame. We're having more and more difficulties. Leaving these points behind means we're moving further away from the title. But we have to keep working and Atletico are a good team."