Barcelona enduring worst start to LaLiga season since Guardiola's treble-winners

By Sports Desk August 31, 2019

Barcelona are enduring their worst start to a LaLiga season in terms of points gained since 2008-09, when Pep Guardiola was in his first term in charge.

The champions were held to a 2-2 draw at Osasuna on Saturday, with Roberto Torres snatching a draw with a late penalty at El Sadar.

Barca had fought from a goal down to lead 2-1, with Ansu Fati becoming their youngest league goalscorer before Arthur put them ahead, after Torres had opened the scoring just seven minutes in.

However, Gerard Pique was penalised for blocking the ball with a raised arm in the box, allowing Osasuna to extend their unbeaten home run in LaLiga to six games.

It means Ernesto Valverde's side have taken only four points from three games in 2019-20, having started with a 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao before beating Real Betis 5-2.

The last time they took only four points from the same number of matches at the start of a season was 11 years ago, when Guardiola began to come under pressure for an underwhelming start to life as head coach at his old club.

Barca would go on to win the treble of LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies that season.

Atletico Madrid, who finished second last term, could move five points clear of Barca at the top of the table if they beat Eibar on Sunday.

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    Ernesto Valverde has praised the display of Slavia Prague after his Barcelona side came away with a fortuitous 2-1 win in the Champions League.

    Barca were well below par in Wednesday's Group F encounter, but clinched the points thanks to Peter Olayinka's own goal.

    Lionel Messi had put Barca ahead early on, but Slavia deservedly fought back through Jan Boril's equaliser before Olayinka deflected in Luis Suarez's effort.

    The visitors had to survive a late onslaught in order to move three points clear at the top of Group F and Valverde acknowledged his side must learn to manage games in a more orderly fashion.

    "That was exactly the Slavia performance we expected," Valverde told a news conference.

    "These games, we have to know how to play them. We have lacked peace of mind. We had clearer chances than they did, but their pushing could hurt us. They were like wolves.

    "When we lost the ball they threw people forward and by the end they took so many risks it was like defending against an avalanche of attacks."

    Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a string of stops to keep Slavia down to one goal, but the Germany international insisted Barca must improve tactically.

    "We didn't play at the level we need to be at," Ter Stegen told reporters. "Luckily we got all three points, which is the most important thing.

    "There are things we must improve but we'll talk about them within the training ground, not here.

    "This is a tactical thing. These are things that happen during a game.

    "On a personal level I always want to be there and if I can help the team, that's better."

  • Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona: Messi sets Champions League record in fortuitous Blaugrana win Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona: Messi sets Champions League record in fortuitous Blaugrana win

    Lionel Messi set a new Champions League record as Barcelona laboured to a fortunate 2-1 victory over Slavia Prague in Group F.

    Messi's third-minute goal saw him become the first player to score in the Champions League in 15 consecutive seasons, but it did not pave the way for a convincing performance from Ernesto Valverde's side.

    Indeed, Barca relied on a huge slice of luck to retake the lead following Jan Boril's equaliser, with Peter Olayinka deflecting in Luis Suarez's effort from a Messi free-kick.

    Though Suarez and Messi subsequently squandered gilt-edged chances to wrap up the points, Olayinka's own goal proved enough to take the wind out of Slavia's sails as Barca moved three points clear at the top of the group.

    With the help of some dismal Slavia defending, Barca wasted little time in hitting their stride – Messi tucking home after exchanging passes with Arthur.

    Marc-Andre ter Stegen reacted brilliantly to keep out Jaroslav Zeleny's close-range effort as the hosts responded well, yet Suarez should have extended Barca's lead before the half-hour mark.

    With Ter Stegen having pulled off two fine saves prior to half-time, Slavia got the equaliser their display merited after the break as left-back Boril charged into the area and prodded in.

    But Slavia's hard work was undone seven minutes later – Suarez bundling home from an improbable angle via Olayinka's deflection.

    Messi would have doubled his tally soon after if not for Ondrej Kolar, before Suarez fired wide when one-on-one with Slavia's goalkeeper.

    Suarez's blushes looked set to be spared when Messi met Jordi Alba's cross, only for the captain to inexplicably slice over from point-blank range, though Barca were ultimately not made to pay for their deficiencies in front of goal despite a late Slavia onslaught.
     

    What does it mean? Barca have breathing room

    With Inter overcoming Borussia Dortmund in Group F's other fixture, Barca sit on top with seven points from their opening three matches and now have some breathing space heading into the return leg against Slavia.

    It was a resilient display from Jindrich Trpisovsky's side, though, and Barca must be far better at Camp Nou as they look to keep themselves clear of the group's other big hitters.

    Miraculous Messi into the record books... again

    Not only did Messi become the first player to score in 15 successive Champions League campaigns, but the 32-year-old – who has four goals from seven appearances in all competitions this season – also matched Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid great Raul in having netted against 33 different opponents in Europe's premier club tournament.

    Barca's defence fail to impress

    For all the attacking talent Barca possess, their defence still looks far from convincing at times. Wednesday's fixture was one of those occasions, with Pique, Clement Lenglet and – in front of them – Sergio Busquets particularly lacklustre up against some brave Slavia attacks.

    What's next? 

    With the Camp Nou Clasico postponed until December due to political tensions in Catalonia, Barca have six days off until their next LaLiga outing, which comes in the form of a home meeting with Real Vallodolid. Slavia, meanwhile, face Viktoria Plzen on Sunday.

  • Messi emulates Ronaldo and Raul while scoring in 15th successive Champions League season Messi emulates Ronaldo and Raul while scoring in 15th successive Champions League season

    Barcelona star Lionel Messi drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul in the Champions League record books, while also setting a new landmark in the competition.

    Messi opened the scoring for Barca in their Group F encounter with Slavia Prague on Wednesday, becoming the first player in Champions League history to score in 15 successive campaigns in the process.

    It was a simple finish for the 32-year-old, who tucked home first time after exchanging passes with Arthur to continue his stellar return to action following his comeback from injury troubles which blighted the start of the season.

    The goal also saw Messi match Real Madrid legend Raul and his rival Ronaldo as the players who have scored against 33 different sides in the Champions League.

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