First league defeat brings Barca down to earth – Vilanova
MADRID (Reuters) – Barcelona’s first defeat in La Liga this season should serve to remind people they are not invincible, coach Tito Vilanova said after their surprise 3-2 loss at Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Barca’s record-breaking start to the first half of the campaign, when they won 18 out of 19 games and only dropped two points in a 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid, had many pundits already proclaiming them league champions.
The Catalans still have an 11-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid and an 18-point advantage over stuttering champions Real, who both play their games in hand on Sunday, but the first doubts have arisen at the Nou Camp this week.
On Wednesday, they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Malaga in a King’s Cup quarter-final first leg, conceding the equaliser against 10 men in the last minute.
On Friday, Barca were rocked by the news that long-standing keeper Victor Valdes had rejected contract renewal negotiations and would leave at the end of his current deal in 2014.
The defeat in San Sebastian was the first time this season they have failed to win in consecutive games since Vilanova took the helm in the close season but Pep Guardiola’s former assistant sought to play down the result’s significance.
“It was inevitable we would eventually lose a game,” he told a post-match news conference.
“It puts us in our place because there is still a long way to go in La Liga. Although everyone believes we have been winning games easily, it isn’t so. There are still a lot of difficult games ahead of us.”