With a loss to Levante in their 37th game of the season, Barcelona’s dream of an invincible run is broken. But what went wrong?
Barcelona blew their chances of winning the La Liga title unbeaten last night. Levante produced a stunning effort to overcome the Catalan club 5-4 in a thrilling finish. The league champions were on a 36-game unbeaten run this season but trailed 5-1 in the 56th minute. Coutinho led a dramatic fightback, but the Catalans fell short.
But what were the reasons Barcelona were defeated so badly, especially on the back of such a long unbeaten run? theSportsRush looks at some of the points.
Absence of Lionel Messi
Barca manager Ernesto Valverde didn’t include Lionel Messi in the squad, and it raised some eyebrows. While Valverde didn’t provide reasons for this surprising move, it was deduced that Messi was rested.
However, some reports also suggest that Messi missed out on the game against Levante so he could feature in Barca’s midweek friendly in South Africa. If this was indeed the case, the club needs to seriously reconsider their priorities.
Also read: Valverde identifies Iniesta’s replacement
With just two games remaining for an invincible run, the presence of Lionel Messi would’ve been a massive boost to Barcelona. His gameplay could’ve altered the result in Barca’s favour.
The selection of Thomas Vermaelen and Yerry Mina turned out to be disastrous for Barcelona, as they conceded five goals inside 60 minutes. Yerry Mina has hardly featured for the club since arriving in January.
The centre-back pairing for Vermaelen and Mina played for the first time in a competitive game together.
Gerard Pique, the defender who has appeared consistently for Barcelona this season and has been a pivotal figure in Barca’s defence, was put to bench.
This led to a series of comical errors in the central defence. Ernesto Valverde needs to take blame for the faulty selection in the lineup, especially when an unbeaten run was at stake.
Transition to midfield
Due to an inexperienced defensive pairing, the transition from defence to midfield was very slow. Messi’s absence also had a direct effect on Barcelona’s midfield.
Rakitic had a poor game by his standards as well.
With Messi out, Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez led the Barca attack. But chances simply fizzled when Suarez received the ball. Even though he scored the fourth goal through penalty, Suarez had a bad game.
He also missed an easy chance towards the end of the game, when Denis Suarez crossed and the Uruguayan headed the ball wide. Had he scored, Barcelona would’ve equalized.
Barcelona should’ve anticipated that Levante away is a tough fixture, especially at this point. Levante, ever since Paco Lopez took charge of the side, has won 8 of their last ten games.