When Gerard Pique told reporters after the Clasico on Sunday night that the Real Madrid he had faced in the first half was ‘one of the worst,’ he’d ever played against, it was as much a criticism of his own team as of the great rival. It was another way of saying: If we can’t beat this lot what does that say about us?
Madrid had underwhelmed in the first period. They attacked but never really looked like scoring, and they allowed Barcelona to have five or six chances.
But Barcelona did not take those chances – failing to score at the Bernabeu for the first time in 12 years.
After the game Barcelona coach Quique Setien said: ‘You can’t always win’. It was a verdict that seemed a little lacking in self-criticism. He described the second-half evaporation as ‘incomprehensible’. For now the finger of blame is not being pointed at him and the Catalan press on Monday morning suggested Barcelona had not deserved to lose the game.
But they have now lost five on the road this season and the new coach is not coming good on the need to change that, or on the promise to play better football.
Setien’s biggest problem is that he vowed, regardless of results, that Barcelona would play well and apart from some brief spells in the first half they really didn’t.
Most concerning of all was that Messi was chief under-performer. You know there is something wrong with Barcelona when the post-match statistics say Messi lost possession 17 times.
Is the great man losing his touch or is this a symptom that all around him is broken? It looked like the latter on Sunday night.