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BARCELONA

Barça inquest begins as team "loses its soul" in Granada

After the worst start to a season in 25 years, there has been a moment of inflection at Barcelona with the players pointing the finger directly at themselves.

After Barcelona’s shock defeat away at Granada confirmed the worst start to a Liga season in 25 years on the road for the defending champions, Luis Suárez was one of the few players to face the cameras – along with Frenkie de Jong – after the game and the forward spoke of the need for immediate improvement.

Barça managed just a single shot on target over the course of the 90 minutes and the feeling in the dressing room was that this was the worst performance of the Ernesto Valverde era, with some players even stating it was their lowest ebb since they first pulled on a Barcelona shirt.

We played worse than at Anfield,” one senior player was heard saying after the 2-0 defeat, in reference to Liverpool’s sensational 4-0 victory in last season’s Champions League semi-finals when Jürgen Klopp’s side overturned a 3-0 first leg deficit.

Valverde said after the game that the “problem isn’t that we lost; the problem is that we deserved to lose.”

Barça in disarray 

Few though Barça would leave Los Cármenes empty-handed but even fewer assumed after that night in Anfield, the most damaging defeat of the century for the club alongside the capitulation in Rome a year earlier, would come just a handful of competitive games later and against a side who last season were in Segunda.

That has led to the sensation in the Barça dressing room that the aura of invincibility they once enjoyed is now over. “They no longer respect us,” one player said after the game while another, on the return journey to Barcelona, summed up the feeling of impotence: “We have become a team that plays without soul.”

After defeat to Athletic on the opening weekend of the season, Antoine Griezmann said: “The season is long and we have to work towards the next game. We have to work because that's the only way we'll improve."

The France forward has failed to register a single shot on goal in his six away games as a Barcelona player and although Valverde has been forced to deal with the absences of Leo Messi, Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé, essentially relying on 16-year-olf Ansu Fati and fellow La Masia graduate Carles Pérez, Barça’s transfer policy has come under increasing scrutiny.

Barça face Villarreal and Getafe in LaLiga before hosting Inter in the Champions League and Valverde’s job now has to be considered far from secure. The visit of the Yellow Submarine is on Tuesday, giving Barça little time to recover emotionally from defeat in Granada. Villarreal are joint Liga top scorers with 12 and have won two and drawn two of five. Valverde needs something to click in two days’ time.