Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has attempted to rally the panicking Blaugrana faithful, with many feeling already that the club's chances of retaining the Liga title are gone after Saturday’s shock 1-0 defeat at Real Valladolid.
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The Catalan press went into overdrive on Sunday morning, with Sport’s cover screaming “Barca throw away La Liga,” while Mundo Deportivo spoke of "a tough blow” and “Barca leaving half the league in Pucela after an awful game to forget”.
El Pais’ match report was headlined: “Without football, without leaders and without shame,” and began: “The title is slipping away from Barca in slow motion,” adding that the team had played “like a cadaver”.
While Barca are still just four points behind league leaders Real Madrid, and visit their rivals at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in two weeks, the momentum in the title race appears to have definitively shifted.
The Catalan club have taken only 14 points from the last 27 available, while Madrid have come from behind to move clear by winning seven and drawing two of their last nine La Liga games.
The pessimism around the Camp Nou is shown by a full 84 percent of respondents to a Mundo Deportivo online poll saying they thought the league was now gone. Some 73 percent of these fans blamed Barca’s players for the loss in Valladolid, and just 27 percent believe under-pressure coach Gerardo Martino was primarily at fault.
By Monday morning, Sport was wondering why Martino and his players had reacted so passively to the defeat with a cover saying: “No rows, no reactions”. Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo’s cover said that “City should pay for this,” in the hope that Barca could bounce back in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Manchester City.
Bartomeu spoke to AS while attending Barca B’s 1-0 home win over Ponferradina on Sunday, reminding everyone that the team was still well placed in three competitions, while calling on fans to get behind their side.
“There are many points still in play in La Liga and we’re very much alive in the other competitions,” he said. “It is normal that some are critical and others praise. The board, the club and the fans are with the players. There is still a lot of the season to go, we are coming to the stage we like so much, and we have to support the team. We have complete confidence in this team and we have to be by their side. I have no doubt that the fans are behind the team.”
Barca’s 2-0 advantage from the first leg against City should be useful when they welcome Manuel Pellegrini’s side on Wednesday, Bartomeu said, while there was still next month’s Copa del Rey final against Madrid to look forward to.
“The result from the first leg is good but you never know when it comes to football -- we have to keep on working,” he said. “We also have the Copa del Rey final which we are playing in a few days. We must remain confident in them [the players], after all they have given in recent years.”