Barcelona’s road woes continued in Granada where they were defeated by the home side that jumped, for today at least, to the top of the La Liga standings. Ramón Azeez almost from the opening kickoff and Álvaro Vadillo from a penalty kick in the second half sealed Barcelona’s fate, who will have to do some serious soul searching after this disaster.
As was widely expected, Ernesto Valverde indeed resorted to some rotation, especially in midfield where the trio of Sergi Roberto, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitić started. Junior Firpo expectedly replaced the injured Jordi Alba, while Carles Perez started in attack with Lionel Messi not deemed fit for the full 90 minutes.
The match probably couldn’t have started worse for Barcelona than it did as Granada took the lead less than two minutes in. The ball was played into the midfield by the Granada goalkeeper where Clement Lenglet was surely fouled, but the whistle remained silent. The situation was compounded by a terrible error by Junior Firpo which allowed the Granada attack to continue. Gerard Pique attempted to clear the danger with a diving block, but that only floated the ball over Marc-Andre ter Stegen and onto the head of the waiting Azeez who put the ball into the empty net.
Barcelona dominated possession, but the Catalans couldn’t create anything. The lack of creativity in midfield was a concern once again, while the front three never really received a ball they could do anything with. Granada on the other hand rarely ventured into Barcelona’s half, but whenever they did they were threatening. Barcelona’s first decent chance didn’t come until the 21st minute when de Jong won a free kick in a very dangerous area, but Luis Suarez’s shot was stopped by a block from a Barcelona player.
Granada were playing very organized football, with good movement and solid positioning, while Barcelona were playing extremely disorganized football. Their movement was often into areas where no pass could reach them, their passing was all too often extremely off the mark and as a result Barcelona had absolutely nothing to show for in the opening half hour. Barcelona could’ve had a good chance in the 33rd minute after a rare mistake from the Granada defense, but Suarez decided to wait for the defenders to join him, instead of leading the charge on goal.
In the dying seconds of the half, Barcelona out of nowhere created a half-chance from a deep free kick, but that too didn’t force goalkeeper Rui Silva into action. Mercifully, the first half would end after 45 minutes as the Catalans desperately needed a reboot in order to change their fortunes away from home this season.
Two substitutions came immediately after the restart with Messi and Ansu Fati being brought on in place of Perez and Firpo. Sergi Roberto, who had a poor game in midfield, was now moved to right-back, with Nelson Semedo switching sides mid-game for the second match in a row. Changes were noticeable from the first minute of the second half as Barcelona looked livelier in attack, but that also wouldn’t lead to any desirable results.
Despite Barcelona’s better play, the hosts almost took a two-goal lead in the 53rd minute after a rare mistake from ter Stegen, but the German recovered in time to prevent the ball from crossing the line. With Barcelona focusing on attack, Granada started looking for their chances on the counter attack – and wasted time whenever possible. Valverde made his final personnel change in the 62nd minute, taking off the largely anonymous Rakitic and replaced him with Arturo Vidal.
Vidal was immediately involved in a defensively play and promptly gave up a penalty kick for an evident handball. Vadillo stepped up to take it and calmly sent ter Stegen the wrong way and Granada doubled their lead midway through the second half. Granada were leading by two goals in a game in which Barcelona didn’t have a single shot on goal. The visitors finally fired their first shot in the 68th minute after a set play from a free kick, but Fati’s shot was saved by the keeper.
Barcelona might have shown more after the additions of Fati and Messi, but it was all too little too late and Valverde’s rotations came back to haunt Barcelona once again. It was an unrecognizable Barcelona and after failing to win four consecutive away games – while easily winning both home matches – points to a bigger problem. Messi and Fati were arguably the only two bright spots in an absolutely forgettable showing. Barcelona will look to return to winning ways on Tuesday against Villarreal.