Barcelona's loss to Almeria gives Real Madrid a lifeline

27 days ago ESPN

Shaka Hislop thinks the Barcelona players have been complacent in the defeat at Almeria in La Liga. (0:44)

Barcelona missed the chance to open up a 10-point lead at the top of LaLiga as they were beaten for just the second time this season in the league, going down to a shock 1-0 defeat against Almeria.

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El Bilal Toure scored the only goal of the game in the 24th minute, finishing brilliantly after latching on to a good pass from Luis Suarez.

Barca threw everything at Almeria in the second half but only managed one shot on goalkeeper Fernando Martinez's goal, with the home side holding on to claim three points and move out of the relegation zone.

Rapid reaction

1. Barcelona hand Real Madrid lifeline

The title race in Spain looked almost over on Saturday when Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw against 10-man Atletico Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti would have anticipated Barca going to Almeria and winning, opening up a 10-point gap at the top of the table in the process.

- Copa del Rey Clasico! Barcelona vs. Real Madrid on ESPN+

However, Almeria had other ideas. Barca had over 70% possession, but Rubi's side created the better chances. Toure's goal was brilliant. The striker chested down a long ball to Suarez, who picked out a lovely pass behind Barca's defence for Toure to latch on to and hammer home off the underside of the bar. It was almost two minutes later when Leo Baptistao's effort was tipped behind by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Xavi Hernandez exhausted his five changes after the break, but nothing worked. Barca mostly resorted to playing wide and looking to cross to Robert Lewandowski -- and later makeshift forward Ronald Araujo. Their cushion ahead of the Clasico at Camp Nou on March 19 is down to seven points for now.

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2. Barcelona's depth tested with minds elsewhere

Barcelona failed to respond to Thursday's Europa League elimination against Manchester United as they suffered just their second defeat in LaLiga this season -- and their first since losing to Madrid in October.

Perhaps their minds were caught between that loss to United and Thursday's Copa del Rey semifinal first leg against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu (stream on ESPN+, March 2, 3 p.m. ET). Or perhaps their lack of depth is being found out. With Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati injured, they lacked creativity. It won't get any easier next week, either, with yellow cards for Raphinha and Gavi meaning they will be suspended for Valencia's visit to Camp Nou -- as will coach Xavi Hernandez.

Barca's near impeccable LaLiga form to date means they can afford the odd slip up. The fear will be, taking into account the loss to United as well, this could be the start of a collapse. Xavi has work to do.

3. Almeria's first Barca win massive at the bottom

This was not a smash and grab. Almeria fully deserved their win. Having taken the lead, they had the better chances to score the game's second goal, ending the match with four shots on target to Barca's one.

It was a historic win at the Power Horse Stadium. Not only had Almeria lost their last three league games, but they had failed to beat Barca in 15 previous meetings, drawing two and losing 13. This was a first-ever win over the LaLiga leaders.

However, more importantly, it was a victory which lifted them out of the bottom three. They had dropped into the relegation zone following wins for Cadiz and Valencia this weekend, but are now up to 15th, although just five points separate 12th-placed Espanyol and 19th-placed Getafe. It's tight down there.

Best and worst performers

BEST: El Bilal Toure, Almeria
The striker took his goal really well and was a constant threat on the break, keeping the Barca backline on their toes.

BEST: Rodrigo Ely, Almeria
A brilliantly committed defensive performance was crowned by a strong challenge on Gavi which led to the opening goal.

BEST: Luis Suarez, Almeria
Like Toure, the Colombian was a constant menace for the Barca defence. His pass for the goal was sublime.

WORST: Sergio Busquets, Barcelona
The Barca captain was unusually sloppy, losing far too many balls before being taken off in the second half.

WORST: Robert Lewandowski, Barcelona
These are the games when you need your star striker to step up, but the Polish international's form since the World Cup remains a concern.

WORST: Sergi Roberto, Barcelona
Returned to right-back before finishing the game in midfielder but didn't add enough from either position.

Highlights and notable moments

Not the best last couple days in Camp Nou ...

Tough week for Barça 😬

▪ ️Knocked out of Europa League
▪ ️Lose to Almeria for the first time ever
▪️ Don't take advantage of Madrid dropping points
▪ ️Gavi and Xavi suspended for next LaLiga match— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 26, 2023

After the match: What the players/managers said

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, on the defeat: The defeat has left me really angry. It was a day to make a statement in LaLiga and there is no excuse. There was no intensity, there was not even a desire to win and that worries we me. We slipped up and we apologise to the fans."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, on if they were looking ahead to Real Madrid: We have not thought about the Clasico. LaLiga is very important and the next game is always the most important ... things did not come off, especially in the first half. Now we have to keep going and work hard to improve."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

- Barcelona: one shot on goal is its fewest in LaLiga since May 15, 2022 vs. Getafe (0-0 draw).

- Barcelona's nine shots off target are tied for its 3rd most this season in LaLiga.

- Barcelona: 7 of their 8 goals allowed this season in LaLiga have been on the road.

Up next

Almeria: Out the relegation zone for the moment, they'll next face Villarreal on March 4.

Barcelona: Let March Madness begin! The first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals at Real Madrid on Thursday, then two LaLiga matches against Valencia (March 5) and Athletic Club (March 12). The return leg of the Clasico Copa clash in Camp Nou will be on March 19.

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