Barcelona’s unbelievable decline continued with a 2-1 loss at home to Valencia, their fourth defeat in five games and third straight loss in La Liga despite Lionel Messi notching his 500th career goal on Sunday.
The result means Atletico Madrid are now level on 76 points with Barca at the top of La Liga with five games remaining as they beat Granada 3-0, while third-placed Real Madrid are just a point behind thanks to their 5-1 win at Getafe on Saturday.
Valencia were beaten 7-0 by Barca on their last trip to the Camp Nou just two months ago under former boss Gary Neville, but gained revenge thanks to Ivan Rakitic’s own goal and Santi Mina’s cool finish before halftime.
Messi ended a five-game goal drought to bring up his 500th for club and country in the second half, but couldn’t inspire a Barca fightback as their alarming collapse in recent weeks continued after a sensational 39-game unbeaten run.
Barca, who seemed poised to achieve an unprecedented second treble just a couple of weeks ago, could end the season empty as they were dumped out of the Champions League by Atleti in midweek and have bungled a 10-point advantage in La Liga, while the dangerous Sevilla wait in the Copa del Rey final.
However, manager Luis Enrique remains upbeat about their chances in the league.
“Luck didn’t shine on the team. I congratulate my players for how they faced the adversity during the game,” said Enrique.
“Now we have a marvellous challenge, five games in which if we win them all we are champions”
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