The Blaugrana suffered their second away defeat of the season, slumping to a dismal 2-0 defeat at Granada that highlighted their numerous issues
On Saturday night, Barcelona had Lionel Messi back within their ranks for the first time in La Ligathis season. But it made little difference. This Barca side has problems that that even the captain can’t resolve.
The worrying thing about this abject 2-0 defeat to Granada from the Blaugrana’s perspective is that it wasn’t the least bit surprising.
The hosts hadn’t beaten Barca since 2014 but their coach on that occasion, Lucas Alcaraz, was rightly confident that his former club would trouble the Catalans, who arrived in Andalusia on the back of a fortuitous midweek draw at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
“I would not like to be in Barcelona’s position because they played a tough match on Tuesday and are now coming to play a team who are in form and at home,” Alcarez quite rightly pointed out on Radio Marca.
Barca, by contrast, have been in dreadful form on the road of late, as coach Ernesto Valverde admitted beforehand.
“When we are away from home, our level of effectiveness and possession decreases,” he said on Friday.
“It is costing us in that we are not getting the results we expect when playing away.
“Everything we have been doing well at home we forget to do away. We want to change this. We must be more forceful and decisive.”
They were neither at Granada, who have gone top with this fully deserved win. With Messi still nursing his way back to full fitness, the Argentine was forced to start on the bench.
As a result, Barca were utterly devoid of ideas in attack during the first half, despite having Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann on the pitch.
They were even worse at the other end of the field and, again, that was not in the least bit surprising.
Tuesday’s scoreless draw at Dortmund was the only game so far this season in which Barca have kept a clean sheet.
They have conceded a disgraceful nine goals in just five outings in La Liga, which only serves to underline that Barca should have spent their summer pursuing world-class defenders rather than spending €120 million (£106m/$132m) on Antoine Griezmann, who still looks out of place in the Blaugrana attack and has yet to register a single shot on target away from home this season.
Of course, the Catalans did sign a left-back, in Junior Firpo, but it was his horrendous error that led to Ramon Azeez opening the scoring after just two minutes of play.
Messi and Ansu Fati were introduced at the break, in place of the hapless Firpo and Carles Perez, but, in truth, the visitors never looked like drawing level. They hit the target just once all game.
It was Granada who continued to carry the greater attacking threat until the end of the game, although, in the end, they were ultimately grateful to Barca for another gift midway through the second half when Arturo Vidal handled in the area shortly after coming on.
Another substitute, Alvaro Vadillo, converted with aplomb and, even with 24 minutes left on the clock, a 2-0 lead was always going to be sufficient against a Barca side that is horribly unbalanced both in midfield and attack, and handicapped by a pitifully brittle backline.
Naturally, the Catalans looked to Messi in the final quarter to bail them out out of jail, as he has so many times before, but there was nothing the barely match-fit forward could do.
Barcelona haven’t just forgotten how to play away from home. They’ve also forgotten how to defend.
The only thing this game reminded them of is just how desperately reliant they are on their skipper.