Barça, 76; Atlético, 76; Madrid, 75...
Barça have fallen apart and no-one can explain why. They started strongly last night and created wave after wave of attack and could have had the game beyond doubt after fifteen minutes. They came up against a inspired Diego Alves and what's worse, saw how Valencia scored with just their second shot on goal of the evening. Barça launched more attacks, this time without the same precision but Valencia were able to withhold the pressure from the Catalan side. Right on the stroke of half-time, Santi Mina struck to put Valencia 0-2 ahead. Barça were clearly rattled by the situation and faced an uphill task ahead of the second period.
It proved too much for Luis Enrique's men. This Barça team is (or was) excellent when playing at the peak of their game, but when things don't click, cracks appear. The startling issue is the lack of depth in the squad and at times the MSN can be the best but also the worst. When all three play, the midfield area is left undermanned and this enables opposition sides to move the ball easily from defence to the middle of the park. The most remarkable thing Neymar did yesterday was change his boots and Luis Suárez was absent for a good thirty minutes of the game. All of this can't be compensated by some fine creative play and a goal from Messi. The Argentine bagged his 500th carrear goal. Congratulations.
With both Atlético and Madrid coming through their respective league games with comfortable wins, it's suddenly open at the top of the table with just one point separating the sides. Barça are still on top by virtue of a better head-to-head but recent results have clearly dented their confidence. Luis Enrique takes his side to Riazor where they will be without Piqué, a great player who had the misfortune yesterday to miss a gaping goal that could have tied the match. This game along with Athletic-Atlético and Madrid- Villarreal are set to be played next Wednesday. We're set for four exciting hours. All of a sudden the league title is up for grabs just when we'd all felt it was done and dusted.
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