The Argentine ace was ostracized from the squad that traveled to Valencia to take on Levante in the penultimate fixture, and the gaffer has come under lot of flake as the unbeaten run ended
Never before might have a team pulled their hair-out in frustration despite winning the league. Barcelona may have sewn up the title unbeaten, but their dream of achieving the ‘invincible’ status ended last night in a pulsating 5-4 loss to Levante.
Sans Lionel Messi, the Catalans were well below their best while the defense parted like the red sea. The Frogs led 5-1 at one point, though Philippe Coutinho’s hat-trick and a late Luis Suarez penalty reduced the deficit. Yet, the late surge wasn’t enough to protect the unbeaten run as Barcelona lost for the first-time in the league this term, and for the first-time in 43 matches.
The agonizing loss left a sour taste in the mouths of the faithful, who sentenced manager Valverde to the doghouse for his questionable decisions. Whilst addressing the press, the beleaguered boss appeared to defend his decision to rest Messi. He said, “We’ve played games without Messi before and come through them.”
And although he did resonate the irk the fans are feeling right now, Valverde is quick to claim that a danger can pop up any moment. “We’re all annoyed to lose. It’s come in the 37th game, so it hurts to lose [the unbeaten season] now, but it could have come in the first, third or 14th game.”
The fact is, Barcelona agreed to have a friendly game in South Africa next week against the indigenous winners Mamelodi Sundowns in the Mandela Centenary Cup to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s centurion birthday. So, the former Bilbao gaffe opted to rest him for in favour of the game.
The ploy, however, came back to bite him as the Catalans were undone by a sprightly Levante, who put the kibosh on all hopes of an unbeaten domestic campaign with a historic victory.
Whilst Messi’s presence on the field would definitely have swung the balance in their favor, one cannot really conclude that the result would’ve been otherwise in that case. The main problem was the defense, as it was totally atrocious. And had Levante been a bit more clinical in the final few minutes, another pair of goals would’ve surely gone in.