Barca waste golden chance to go top
Barca threw away the chance to go top of the table with five games left to play by gifting Granada a first-ever win at the Camp Nou.
Ronald Koeman’s men looked set for victory after Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann combined superbly to open the scoring after 23 minutes.
However, for the umpteenth time this season Barca failed to kill off the game, despite creating a host of chances, and were once again undone by some poor defending.
Barca really should have won the game and failure to do so has dealt the team’s title hopes a big blow. It’s not over just yet but Barca now need favors if they are to do the double.
Barca’s defensive troubles return
One thing Barca must cut out if they are to go on and win their last five games is the mistakes in defense which returned to haunt the team again on Thursday night.
Barca have looked stronger defensively since switching to a three-man central defense but Oscar Mingueza, Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti all had a poor night against Granada.
Mingueza managed to gift the ball to Darwin Machis for the equalizer, while Pique and Umtiti won’t want to see the second goal again. It’s no coincidence either that both goals came from Sergi Roberto’s side of the pitch.
Koeman must tighten up the defense quickly and he does have options if he wants to make changes with Ronald Araujo, Clement Lenglet and Sergino Dest all options to come back in.
Koeman facing touchline ban?
It was a tough night for Ronald Koeman who finally made changes to his side, bringing in Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Ilaix Moriba, but saw the trio fail to impress in a sloppy showing by his team.
The Dutchman then managed to get himself sent off in the second half after a spat with the match officials as his frustrations boiled over. It did seem a harsh call with the referee’s report claiming he saw red for saying ‘what a character.’
Koeman duly complained about the sending off after the match insisting he’d done nothing wrong, but the red card could mean the boss is banished from the bench for Barca’s next two games.
They are important matches too against Valencia and Atletico Madrid. Win them both and confidence will be restored, drop points in either and the title will surely be over for another season.
Is this the end for Roberto and Umtiti?
There had been fresh talk about the futures of Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti before the game against Granada, but on Thursday night’s evidence you have to wonder if either player will be at the club next season.
Umtiti looks almost certain to leave, as long as Barca can find a club willing to take a risk on the defender, with injuries having taken their toll on the World Cup winner who continues to look a shadow of his former self.
Roberto’s future is also in doubt amid talk about a contract renewal for the versatile star whose current deal expires in 2022.
The 29-year-old has spent large chunks of the season out injured and hasn’t really been missed. He remains a decent squad option but with Sergino Dest and (potentially) Emerson around next season Barca must surely be tempted to sell if offers arrive this summer.
All eyes on Valencia
Barca must bounce back quickly and face another tricky game on Sunday at Mestalla against Valencia. Los Che are having a pretty miserable campaign, and are only six points off the relegation zone, but tend to do well against Barca.
The Catalans have only won one of their last six matches against Valencia but simply must come away from Mestalla with all three points if they are to have chance of completing the double.
It’ll be another game when Mingueza, Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi must be careful as all four players remain a booking away from a suspension and will miss the visit of Atletico Madrid if they are booked.
Barca can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves despite Thursday’s disappointment as the title is still a possibility. All four title contenders still have some crunch games to play and it would be no surprise if there were still a few more twists in the title race to come.