LA LIGA: Defending Champions Barcelona Out Of Favour

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Messi-and-Xavi

Barcelona’s shock defeat at Granada last weekend was the most unexpected result. That leaves the defending champions playing catch-up again in the La Liga title race. The defeat at Granada completed the damage which was inflicted on them last week as Atletico Madrid knocked them out of the UEFA Champions League last Wednesday.

After the Champions League exit, Barca was looking for a morale-boosting win that would have put it two points clear of Atletico.

Again Barca looked lethargic and short of ideas against a club with a fraction of its resources and was undone when Alex Song lost possession in midfield in the 16th minute and Yacine Brahimi raced clear and fired past Jose Manuel Pinto.

Barcelona dominated the rest of the match but Granada, which is fighting to avoid relegation, held firm against waves of attacks and the Catalan giants suffered a second consecutive defeat that will increase the pressure on Coach Gerardo Martino.

“This is a step backwards,” Barca playmaker Andres Iniesta, who was captaining the side in place of the rested Xavi, said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find an explanation when you lose but we just couldn’t get the goal,” added the Spain international who won the title with Barca last season.

“Teams like Granada which is playing for its La Liga survival live and die on chances like the one it scored but that was too much punishment for us.

“We tried everything we could to score. It hurts having taken this step backwards with so few matches left.”

Atletico, closing in on its first La Liga title since 1996, has 79 points ahead of Barca on 78 and Real with 79. Granada’s win puts it six points away from the relegation places into 13th place on 37 points.

But Martino admits Barcelona’s title hopes rest in the hands of Madrid rivals after the Granada defeat.

Martino claimed the club’s defeat by Granada was down to ‘chance’, but concedes the title race is no longer in their hands.

The Argentine insisted his players were not to blame for the 1-0 loss, which has jeopardized their chances of winning La Liga.

We tried to do everything they could in any way they could. We never let our heads drop.

“We couldn’t score; we did not have the finishing touch. It’s a setback which happens occasionally in football.”

He added: “Being effective and scoring goals is what counts and in a normal game, we would have won by four or five goals. This game came down to chance.”

Martino decided to rest Xavi, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid.

He made a similar move in February for a trip away at Real Sociedad and was stung by a 3-1 defeat.

But the coach insisted that his squad management was not to blame for the defeat.

He said: “A lot is being made about my squad rotation. We should have won. You guys [the press] will look for things but it had nothing to do with the rotation.

“We lacked goals, which are necessary to win the game. We couldn’t score. We lacked the ability to convert our chances.

He continued: “Barca had so many chances that our defeat doesn’t come down to Granada simply defending well.”

Asked if this was the worst week of his time at Barcelona, Martino responded: “You could say that.”

The coach was keen to bring up Wednesday’s clash with Real Madrid and the chance to win a trophy.

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