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Football is not just about skill. Mentality, morale and a number of other factors also come into play, not to mention a little bit of luck now and again. There is no denying that Barça have been lacking in the latter department of late, and the amazing trident we could always count on to conjure up goals out of nothing have been struggling to do what they do best. Put the ball in the back of the net.

That’s not for want of trying. At the Camp Nou on Sunday, they dominated the play and subjected Diego Alves to a relentless barrage of pressure. Unfortunately for the home team, the Valencia keeper posted a performance of a lifetime with some almost impossible saves, while a number of other chances seemed to defy the laws of science by failing to cross the line.

Barça lost a third league game in a row but they are still top of the table and their fate is still in their own hands. Here we take a statistical look back at a result that leaves Barça down but not out:

- Barça had an amazing 22 shots on Diego Alves’ goal. The siege was relentless, but misfortune and an inspired visiting goalie frustrated attempt after attempt. This graph shows the staggering number of chances that went begging.


Messi was the only player who did manage to get the ball past Diego Alves. And it was no ordinary goal. It was his 450th for the club, while the figure makes for a round 500 when we factor in the half-ton of goals he has scored on the international stage for Argentina.


Here’s the build-up to Messi’s goal. The Argentinian was highly active all game, and not just as part of the attacking threesome, but also by dropping back and supporting the playmaking in midfield.


Piqué and Macherano were both sublime in the centre of defence. The Catalan won 18 tackles and the Argentinian wasn’t far short with eleven. Piqué pushed up into attack towards the end of the game and had a wonderful chance to equalise, but failed to connect with the ball as well as he would have hoped.


 Tackles by Piqué (left) and tackles by Mascherano (right)


Andrés Iniesta took the reins of the team has he has done so many times in the past, leading the construction in midfield. He made his presence felt all over the park, and was involved in the build-up to many of the biggest openings.


Barça have only collected one point from a possible 12 in their last four league outings, but they have still managed to hold onto top spot in the standings. Win their last five matches, and they’ll be champions regardless of what their rivals do.


Atlético Madrid now have the same number of points as Barça, but the Catalans have the all-important advantage due to their head-to-head record. Real Madrid are now one point behind the frontrunners. Here’s what the three teams have ahead of them for the rest of the league season.

 
GAME 34 Deportivo - FCB Athletic Bilbao - Atlético Madrid - Villarreal
GAME 35 FCB - Sporting Atlético - Málaga Rayo - Madrid
GAME  36 Betis - FCB Atlético - Rayo Real Sociedad - Madrid
GAME  37 FCB - Espanyol Levante - Atlético Madrid - Valencia
GAME  38 Granada - FCB Atlético - Celta Deportivo - Madrid
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