Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Barcelona’s last major title chance slipping away

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, from Argentina, left, watches Sergio Busquets on the pitch during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Getafe at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona (AP) FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, from Argentina, left, watches Sergio Busquets on the pitch during a Spanish La Liga soccer match against Getafe at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona (AP)
Reuters | Barcelona | Posted: May 4, 2014 12:58 am

Barcelona were left facing their first season without any major silverware in six years after they conceded in the second minute of added time in a tepid 2-2 La Liga draw at home to lowly Getafe on Saturday.

Barca’s feeble showing means Atletico Madrid can stretch their advantage at the top to six points with two games left, including a visit to the Nou Camp on the final day of the season, with a win at Levante on Sunday.

Real Madrid are three points behind Barca in third and well placed to overhaul their arch rivals as they have Sunday’s match at home to Valencia and Wednesday’s trip to struggling Real Valladolid in hand.

Barca captain Xavi conceded that a fifth La Liga title in six years was next to impossible for the Catalan giants and had some harsh criticism for himself and his team mates.

“It will take a miracle to win the league now and we are really down,” the Spain playmaker told reporters. “We have not had a good season and we were not competitive in many areas.

“We have to forget about this season and take a good look at ourselves. We have to improve a lot of things.”

At the start of April Barca were well placed to repeat their record treble of La Liga, Champions League and King’s Cup from 2008-09 but are now likely to end the campaign with nothing more than the season-opening Spanish Super Cup.

They were dumped out of Europe’s elite club competition by Atletico last month and a week later Real beat them 2-1 in the final of the King’s Cup.

The defeats capped a miserable season that also included the resignation of president Sandro Rosell over alleged irregularities in the signing of Brazil forward Neymar and the death of former coach Tito Vilanova from throat cancer.

Failure to win a major title will increase the pressure on Gerardo Martino in his first season in charge after succeeding Vilanova and there has been widespread speculation he will leave at the end of the campaign halfway through a two-year contract.

SURPRISE EQUALISERS

The Barca players and fans paid a moving tribute to Vilanova before kickoff on Saturday and the match initially appeared to be going according to plan.

Lionel Messi, who played under Vilanova as a teenager in the club’s academy, made it 1-0 in the 23rd minute when he stroked a Dani Alves centre high into the net.

It was the Argentina forward’s 28th goal of an injury-disrupted campaign, two fewer than La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo of Real and one more than Atletico forward Diego Costa.

Getafe snatched the first of continued…

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