Champions Barcelona need to rediscover their touch

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino needs to find a quick fix for whatever is ailing his team or his first season in charge at the Nou Camp is likely to end without major silverware.

Barca turned in one of their worst performances since the Argentine took over on Saturday and the shock 1-0 La Liga defeat at lowly Real Valladolid opened the way for Real Madrid to stretch their lead at the top.

Although the Catalan giants dominated possession as usual, they squandered what few genuine chances they managed to create against ultra-defensive opponents, with Lionel Messi and Neymar the main culprits.

There was more urgency in the Barca ranks in the second half but far too many passes went astray and Valladolid were comfortably able to hang on to their lead.
Barca were a shadow of the team that blazed a trail in Spain and Europe under Pep Guardiola and the club’s fans will be casting envious glances towards Germany where Guardiola’s new club Bayern Munich swept to another impressive win in the Bundesliga on Saturday. “We lacked what makes us Barca,” Martino said at a news conference.
“Good elaboration in our build-up, finding spaces, breaking through on the wings and having depth,” the 51-year-old added. “We had very few chances of actually running at goal and we almost always had to fight against 10 defenders. A good solution would have been creating more space.”

“We had to win at the Bernabeu (in La Liga) regardless,” Martino said. “Currently we aren't at our best and we have to find our best form in order to play against teams like Real Madrid. We have 15 days to do it.” Barca fullback Dani Alves acknowledged that Saturday's result was “very negative” but insisted he and his team-mates would “fight until the end”.

“It's hard to win the league if you don't take the three points week in and week out,” said the Brazilian.

Atletico on top

Atletico Madrid climbed into provisional first place in La Liga, thanks to a 2-0 win at Celta Vigo when former Barca forward David Villa struck twice in two minutes to improve his chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad.

Real and Atletico each have 64 points, with the latter top due to a superior head-to-head record over their city neighbours, and Barca are on 63.

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