Barcelona lost further ground on league leaders Real Madrid in the race to win La Liga as they lost 2-0 at Malaga on Saturday night.
Barcelona let go of a chance to go back to the top of the La Liga table on Saturday, as Malaga beat them 2-0 at La Rosaleda Stadium. Real Madrid had drawn earlier in the day and the Blaugrana’s loss on the night leaves them three points adrift of the league leaders.
Former Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez put the hosts up front just after the half-hour mark as he took advantage of some horrible defending by Barcelona before calmly slotting the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) April 8, 2017
The second half saw Neymar being sent off for a second bookable offence midway through the first half after he met Diego Llorente with a late challenge. With Malaga holding the numerical advantage on the field, they put the game beyond any doubt as Jhony scored in the dying stages of the match to condemn Barcelona to a shock loss.
Malaga climbed a place to 14th in the La Liga table while Barcelona remained second, three points behind Real Madrid. The Hard Tackles now takes a closer look at the talking points that emerged in the aftermath of the match.
Barcelona Spurn A Glorious Opportunity… Again
Real Madrid drew faced a disappointing afternoon on Saturday when they played out a 1-1 draw against capital rivals Atletico Madrid to pile on the pressure on Barcelona, who were going to play after Los Blancos later in the day.
Barcelona’s four defeats this season: Alavés, Celta, Depor, Malaga. None of those in the top nine.
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) April 8, 2017
That meant that Barcelona had the chance to climb back to the top of the table by beating Malaga at La Rosaleda, and even things up ahead of the much-awaited El Clasico in two weeks’ time. However, after Saturday’s match, they have made things a whole lot tougher for themselves in their bid to retain their La Liga crown.
In what was one of their worst outings in the league this season, Barcelona created precious little throughout the match and failed to capitalise on the few that came their way, while a fragile defence proved to be their undoing yet again.
They have now ended up losing further ground to their bitter rivals, having also played a game more than them. Thus, Real Madrid could win the league title even if they lose the El Clasico in two weeks’ time by winning all the other games, meaning Barcelona are no longer in command of their fortunes, and are dependent on Los Blancos slipping up again.
Sandro Comes Back To Haunt Barcelona
It looks like players let go by Barcelona last summer – either on loan or released – have had their hearts set out at getting one back at the Blaugrana when they come up against them.
July 2016: Barcelona release Sandro Ramirez, Malaga sign him.
April 2017: Sandro scores the goal that potentially wins Real Madrid La Liga pic.twitter.com/ArQvVC4RxP
— Juan Direction (@JuanDirection58) April 8, 2017
First it was Munir El Haddadi, who recently starred for in attack for Valencia in two meetings against Barcelona, and on Sunday it was the turn of another attack to make his former side pay in a superb performance.
Sandro Ramirez, who Barcelona let Malaga buy for free, had plans of his own when his former side visited La Rosaleda on Sunday, eager to prove them wrong with a game changing performance on the night.
The 21-year-old opened the scoring for Malaga and was a menace for the Barcelona defence to deal with all through the night as they were punished for coming up short in all departments, and particularly in defence where they have been fragile for large parts of the season.
Barcelona’s Defensive Shortcoming Horribly Exposed Again
This is perhaps one of the big talking points for Barcelona’s season so far, and it comes up yet again after an awful showing on Saturday. Samuel Umtiti has been a true revelation for the Catalan club in his maiden season at Camp Nou but other than the young Frenchman, there is precious little to boast of at the back for them.
Bartra was sold to keep trash like Mathieu at the club and Sandro shining at Málaga, congratulations to Luis Enrique.
— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) April 8, 2017
Jeremy Mathieu has been highly unreliable to say the least, while age seems to be catching up to Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique has blown hot and cold. Right-back has been a big problem area for Barcelona even though Sergi Roberto has done well in an alien position, while Jordi Alba has been inconsistent as well.
With Barcelona being at their most vulnerable in a long time, the next Barcelona boss could have his hands full next season if the club fails to address the big achilles heel in the summer transfer window. A top class defender will, in fact, go a long way in ensuring that the star front trio gets the right support to flourish.
It remains to be seen if the concerns are addressed correctly in the summer, and if not how Barcelona go about playing with a visibly frail defence.
Carlos Kameni Stands Tall
Carlos Kameni has made a name for himself for being one of the finest shot stoppers in Spain for nearly 13 years. First for Espanyol in an eight year stint, and now with Malaga, the Nigerian seems to be a goalkeeper who often stands tall against the most dangerous of attacking players.
— 442stat.com (@442stat) April 8, 2017
That was no different on Saturday, as Kameni brought out the best in himself against a Barcelona side that has been one of the most prolific in Europe, no less in Spain. And while he didn’t have much to do on the night, he did make a couple of world class saves to thwart the Barcelona attack.
In particular, the save Kameni made to deny Luis Suarez in the first half will remain fresh in the minds of the Barcelona supporters as a moment that possibly changed the face of the season for their club.
The Nigerian goalkeeper has now kept 7 clean sheets in 23 appearances against Barcelona. No other active shot stopper in Spain has managed to keep more shut outs against the Blaugrana, which just goes to show just how remarkable a feat this is.
Neymar’s Red – Could Real Madrid Be Handed Further Advantage?
In the last month or so, Neymar has raised his hand up to make himself count as player who could change Barcelona’s fortunes this season. Blossoming into a fine attacking player, he has raised his playmaking abilities while coming up with the goods in the most clutch moments.
We will find out on Wednesday how long Neymar will be suspended for in La Liga (md) pic.twitter.com/zF1vIAtZVJ
— Brazil Football 🇧🇷 (@BrazilEdition) April 9, 2017
However, the Brazilian superstar was in the news on Saturday for all the wrong reasons as he got sent off for two ridiculous moments that will not earn him any admirers. The former was for delaying Malaga’s attempts to take a free kick in the first half, while the latter saw him put in a late tackle on Diego Llorente midway through the second.
As a result, the referee had no choice but to send Neymar off which will see him miss Barcelona’s next league outing against Real Sociedad on Saturday. But he could end up getting a further ban for contempt of the officials after he sarcastically applauded his dismissal while making his way off the pitch.
If that happens, Real Madrid could secure a vital advantage ahead of the El Clasico in two weeks’ time, while Barcelona could face further blows in the race for the La Liga crown. It now remains to be seen if Neymar’s first red card of his Barcelona career provides a significant blow to the club in their biggest match of the season.