Barca not Piqued by error
BARCELONA — Barcelona need to rediscover the defensive solidity that has underpinned their championship charge alongside their sharp attack after an error by Gerard Pique in the drawn match against Sevilla reduced their lead to two points at the top of La Liga.
Pique has looked assured and led from the back over recent months as the defence has provided the foundations for Barca’s assault on three trophies this season.
The attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez may capture the headlines but Barca’s rearguard have looked more composed and cut out the basic mistakes that led to their struggle earlier in the season and put coach Luis Enrique’s position under threat.
The turnaround has been most noticeable for Pique who was dropped for below-par performances and a lack of professionalism. He has been looking more like the defensive stalwart that along with Carles Puyol gave the defensive security during Barca’s golden era with Pep Guardiola at the helm.
Amply supported by either Jeremy Mathieu and Javier Mascherano the defence played their part as Barca overtook Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, swept into the quarterfinals of the Champions League and reached the final of the King’s Cup.
However, against Sevilla on Saturday, facing a spirited attack they once again made mistakes and in particular an error by Pique on the halfway line led to a breakaway and the late equaliser for the Andalusians who drew 2-2. Luis Enrique was angry at the way they surrendered a two-goal lead but refused to single out any players.
“When we concede I don’t like it, however it comes,” Luis Enrique told a news conference. “If it is due to a mistake then it is the same.” Midfielder Sergio Busquets also backed Pique.
“It wasn’t his mistake but that of the team. It is not a case of blaming anybody,” he said.
“It is disappointing to draw having been ahead but we are still leaders and on the right path.”
Sevilla coach Unai Emery said before the game that this Barca side was the most similar he had seen to that of Pep Guardiola’s but they are still a long way from controlling the game as well as the team that won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues between 2008 and 2012.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo continued his hot streak with the opening goal as second-placed Real won while Antoine Griezmann came to the rescue of Atletico Madrid, who are third, with his second of the game after 78 minutes earning the champions a 2-2 draw at Malaga.
Ronaldo struck a free kick from distance and the ball moved deceptively in the air to catch out keeper Xabier Irureta and put Real 1-0 up after 21 minutes at the Bernabeu.
The World Player of the Year’s form dropped after Christmas, coinciding with Real losing top spot, but he has now bounced back with eight goals from four games.real were missing several regular starters against Eibar, who posed little threat, and Javier Hernandez nodded home the second after 31 minutes.
Jese Rodriguez completed the scoring from the edge of the area seven minutes from the end.barca now have 75 points, two more than Real with seven games to go, while Atletico are on 66.
“It was a good result for us particularly with the players missing,” said Real full back Alvaro Arbeloa.
“We played with those who haven’t had that many minutes so far this season but they responded well and it showed the strength that we have in the squad.” — Reuters Fixtures April 17 Espanyol
April 18 v
Atletico de Ma-
April 19 v Almeria v Sevilla v Cordoba Celta de Vigo
April 20 Real Sociedad