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FC Barcelona could have gone into a two-figure lead at the top of the Liga table following the 1-1 draw in yesterday’s Madrid derby, but instead a 1-0 defeat in Almería means the lead has been cut from eight to seven points.
It’s still a huge advantage, but Xavi has been insisting that there is still a lot of work to be done, and today’s result is a reminder of just that.
It was just the second defeat for Barça this league season, and brings to an end a triumphant run of seven consecutive wins in the competition.
Xavi: ‘Worst performance of the season’
It was a result nobody had expected. Barça had never lost to Almería before, and the opposing manager, Rubi, had never so much as drawn in any of his previous encounters with the Catalans. But today the Andalusians did not look at all like a side that is staring relegation in the face and had lost 6-2 to Girona the week before.
Although much of the credit has to go to them for such a spirited display, this was clearly far from the best performance from Barça. Indeed, Xavi himself was pretty emphatic after the game, calling it “our worst game of the season.”
The coach added that tiredness following the game in Manchester was also a factor, and had conditioned his selection today, although he was adamant that that was no excuse for “a bad day and a wasted opportunity.”
Barça were never allowed to get comfortable with this game and matters did not improve after they conceded what would turn out to be the only goal of the game after 24 minutes.
Luis Suárez sent a long ball over the Catalan defence and Malian forward El Bilal Touré managed to meet it well. His perfect strike was too good for Ter Stegen.
It was just the eighth goal against Barça this league season. Things were not looking good. Almeria were playing with extraordinary verve and although there were blaugrana chances, they were too infrequent and indecisive for comfort.
Tempers were flaring, and so were the yellow cards, and one for Gavi means he’ll be suspended for the Valencia game next weekend.
No way through
As the situation became more urgent, so did Barça’s football. The chances were flowing thicker and thicker, but every piece of defensive brilliance from the men in red and white was met by a jubilant roar from the increasingly more excited Power Horse Stadium crowd.
Almeria were desperately clinging onto their slender lead. Barça were getting closer and closer to an equaliser. Cross after cross was floated right into heart of the danger area, and Ronald Araujo and Robert Lewandowski had particularly clear-cut opportunities, but the ball just did not want to go in.
Real Madrid next
In fact, Adrián Embarba probably should have scored Almeria’s second in an injury time breakaway. Ter Stegen stopped it brilliantly. The home team didn’t even want to go up for the corner. They just wanted to defend their lead. And they did.
Following defeats in the Europa League and now in La Liga, next up is the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg. That’s on Thursday against Real Madrid. The perfect occasion to start winning again!
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