Struggling Barcelona held to draw again in Spanish league

MADRID (AP) — Barcelona’s ongoing crisis keeps getting worse, with the team unable to win on the field and the club’s players, coach and president growing increasingly at odds.

Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw by Cádiz in the Spanish league on Thursday, extending its winless streak to three matches and adding pressure on coach Ronald Koeman.

Koeman a day earlier surprisingly read from a prepared statement in the pre-match news conference and downplayed the team’s chances of winning titles this season.

Players didn’t hide the fact they were not on the same page.

“I’m not wearing Barça’s jersey to finish second or third,” veteran defender Gerard Piqué said after the match. “I’m convinced that despite our bad start we will be contending at the end of the season.”

President Joan Laporta, who said he was caught by surprise by Koeman’s statement ahead of the match, has been at odds recently with the coach who was hired by former president Josep Bartomeu.

Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong walks from the pitch after being given a red card. PHOTOS: AP
Barcelona’s head coach Ronald Koeman gestures during a Spanish La Liga match.

Barcelona, without Lionel Messi after nearly two decades, had to hold on in the end against Cádiz after midfielder Frenkie de Jong was sent off with a second yellow card in the 65th minute.

Koeman also was sent off for complaining to the referee in the final minutes.

“I can’t complain about the attitude of the players,” Koeman said. “We did everything possible. It was a complicated match.”

The draw left Barcelona in seventh place in the league standings, seven points behind leader Real Madrid with a game in hand. Madrid routed Mallorca 6-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday to stay two points ahead of defending champion Atlético Madrid, which won 2-1 at Getafe on Tuesday.

“We are Barça and we still have a very good squad,” Roberto said. “We have a team that can win this league and we will try to win it.”

Barcelona was coming off two consecutive setbacks at home — a 3-0 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and a 1-1 draw against Granada in the Spanish league, when it needed a 90th minute equaliser to escape defeat. Cádiz nearly opened the scoring through Álvaro Negredo’s shot from outside the area in the 46th, forcing Marc-André ter Stegen to make a difficult save by the top corner.

One of Barcelona’s best chances was a low shot by Memphis Depay that was stopped by Cádiz goalkeeper Jeremías Ledesma a few minutes later.

The Dutch striker missed an opportunity to score the winner deep into stoppage time when his shot from inside the area went wide in a one-on-one situation.

With an extra man, Cádiz had most of the chances at the end but couldn’t capitalise on them, with Ter Stegen making a few good saves.

De Jong was sent off after sliding in to try to steal the ball from an opponent.

Barcelona remains depleted by injuries and Koeman started the match with two teenagers – 17-year-old midfielder Gavi and 18-year-old forward Yusuf Demir.