Barcelona’s nightmare week hit a new low when they followed up their Champions League exit with a shock 1-0 defeat at Granada on Saturday that left their bid for a fifth La Liga title in six years in serious jeopardy.
After Atletico Madrid dumped them out of Europe’s elite club competition on Wednesday, Barca sought a morale-boosting domestic win that would have put them two points clear at the top ahead of Atletico, who play at Getafe on Sunday.
However, the Spanish champions again looked lethargic and short on ideas against a club with a fraction of their resources and surrendered second place to arch rivals Real Madrid, who thumped struggling Almeria 4-0 at the Bernabeu to draw level on 79 points with Atletico.
Atletico can stretch their advantage at the top to three points with a win at Getafe. They play at Barca in their final match of the season and will already be assured of their first Spanish league title since 1996, when current coach Diego Simeone was in the side, if they win their next five matches.
“The league is not in our own hands anymore,” Barca coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.
“There is no reason to criticise the team, they gave it everything they had,” added the Argentine, who is in his first season in charge at the Nou Camp and now needs to lift his players for Wednesday’s King’s Cup final against Real.
“The ball did not want to go in and that’s that. We just weren’t up to scratch in taking our chances.”
Barca fell behind at Granada’s Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium when Alex Song lost possession in midfield in the 16th minute and Yacine Brahimi raced clear and fired past goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.
They dominated the rest of the match but Granada, who are fighting to avoid relegation, held firm against waves of attacks and the Catalan giants’ second consecutive defeat will do little to dispel the impression of a club in crisis.
They had almost 90 percent possession but not even four-times World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who turned in another subdued performance, or Brazil forward Neymar could unlock a stubborn home defence.
Neymar had several clear chances, while Messi drew a fine save from Granada goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis with a free kick just after the hour.
Sergio Busquets almost scored when the ball fell to him at the resulting corner but his close-range effort was straight at the keeper.
“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 …continued »