Barcelona threw on their stars of the present and the future on Saturday but neither Lionel Messi nor Ansu Fati could save them from a dismal 2-0 defeat away at Granada.
Messi was still not deemed fit enough to start at Los Carmenes while Fati, the 16-year-old who has lit up La Liga in recent weeks, also began the game on the bench.
But while both came on at half-time with Barca trailing to Ramon Azeez’s opener, it was Granada that scored again, Alvaro Vadillo converting a penalty after Arturo Vidal was found guilty of a handball.
Barcelona have now won only two of their opening five league games and none away from Camp Nou, this their second loss already, just one fewer than the three they suffered during the entirety of last season.
With seven points on the board, this is their worst start to a season since 1994.
“Obviously I am worried,” said coach Ernesto Valverde. “Because we are not getting good results and when that happens in two or three games, it means we are not playing well.”
Instead, Granada go top of the table after capitalising on Atletico Madrid’s goalless draw at home to Celta Vigo a few hours before.
They will stay there until Sunday, when Sevilla, Real Madrid or Athletic Bilbao could overtake them.
Barcelona are sixth, grasping onto the consolation of Messi’s second substitute appearance in five days that now suggests he has finally recovered from the niggling calf injury sustained at the start of August.
Their problems though are unlikely to be solved simply by their captain’s return.
Junior Firpo’s error two minutes into his first start for the club gifted Granada their opening goal and set the tone for a chaotic night in defence.
And up front, Antoine Griezmann was quiet again, with little in any of the combinations to suggest Ernesto Valverde has yet worked out who will form his best attacking trio and in what positions.
“In the end, the coach is responsible and I feel responsible,” Valverde said. “I always think you can win or lose but at least you have to deserve to win when you lose, and today it hasn’t been like that.”
Firpo’s mistake came early, as he shaped to play a long ball over the top back to his goalkeeper. Instead, the lively Roberto Soldado stole possession and slipped in Antonio Puertas.
– Messi impact limited –
With Firpo on the floor, Gerard Pique scrambled across but Puertas’ shot only looped up off the defender to the back post where Azeez headed in.
Granada seemed hungrier than Barca and their dominance persuaded Valverde to make two changes at half-time, Messi and Fati replacing Carles Perez and Firpo.
Messi won a free-kick 30 yards out but hit it straight at the wall while Marc-Andre ter Stegen fumbled a cross and had to react quickly to claw it back off his own line.
Any hopes of a Barca comeback were dashed in the 66th minute as Vidal handballed at the end of a scramble in the box and Vadillo made no mistake with the spot-kick.
One break saw Messi supply Fati but the teenager took too long and then Messi tried himself but his shot was straight at the goalkeeper. In the end, Granada were comfortable winners.
Atletico could have returned to the top of La Liga but were frustrated by a determined Celta Vigo.
After coming from two goals down to salvage a point against Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, Atletico failed to sustain the momentum in a match of few chances at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Diego Simeone’s side won their opening three league games but are now two without a victory, following last weekend’s shock defeat away at Real Sociedad.
This latest setback leaves Simeone with familiar questions to answer about his side’s attacking threat.
Summer signing Joao Felix started before being replaced by Alvaro Morata in the second half, the Spanish striker available again after recovering from a knee injury.
But neither Felix nor Morata, or their partner Diego Costa, could conjur up the decisive opening, with full-backs Renan Lodi and Kieran Trippier by far the team’s most creative outlets.
Atletico drop to third in the table while Celta climb to 14th.
Barcelona hosts fifth-placed Villarreal at Camp Nou on Saturday, in a match both sides need to win.
Coach Luis Enrique on Friday praised the hard work of Villarreal during the season and said it is obvious that his team needs to win all remaining matches in order to keep their hopes to win La Liga.
“When the end of the championship approaches the pressure is divided. It is obvious that the only condition we have to meet to have any option is to win all the matches and that’s what we are going to try to do. From here on, it will depend on what we do and later what our rivals do,” Enrique said in a press conference on Friday.
Villarreal, known as “The Yellow Submarine”, have won five of their last six, including an away victory over Atletico Madrid, as they make a late bid for the fourth and the final Champions League berth with Sevilla stumbling.
And Enrique believes they would be tough opponents to overcome.
“I would look at what they do as a team. They are perfectly organised with the ball, capable of generating danger in the associative game and at the defensive level they defend very well, folded in their own side, they generate difficulties and create offensive transitions,” he said.
“They are a rival that by looking at their numbers and the way they play you can see that they are a very hard working team and one of the most difficult to take on in La Liga.”
Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid are aiming to remain in pole position for a first La Liga title in five years when they travel to relegated Granada on Saturday night.
Barcelona on Saturday won its second straight Spanish league title after defeating Granada 3-0, with a hat trick by Luis Suarez.
The result concluded a five-game winning streak that allowed the Catalan club to finish one point ahead of Real Madrid, which had 90 points from 38 games.
Madrid defeated Deportivo 2-0 in La Coruna with two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it needed Barcelona to stumble to clinch its first title since 2012.
After the final whistle in Granada, Barcelona players formed a circle near the benches and jumped up and down while chanting “Campeones, Campeones.”
Hundreds of fans from both teams invaded the pitch as players struggled to find their way off the pitch.
Barcelona, which finished with 91 points, has won six of the last eight Spanish league titles, and eight of the last 12. It has 24 trophies in total, eight less than Real Madrid, the league’s most successful club.
Saturday’s win helped Barcelona avoid what would have been a disastrous title loss after it led Madrid by 12 points with nine rounds to go.
The title is a deserved consolation for the club that crashed out of the Champions League in the quarter-final, losing to Atletico Madrid.
FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, has premiered his personal portrait film “Ronaldo” in London.
Ronaldo reunited with his former Manchester United Manager, Alex Ferguson, on the red carpet, which also saw a late arrival from embattled Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho who managed Ronaldo during his three year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Posing with a line of fans, Ronaldo sought to break a selfie record upon arrival and was also awarded certificates for other Guinness World Records he had, including “most ‘liked’ person on Facebook”.
His agent, and close friend, Jorge Mendes also said that the documentary film was for Ronaldo’s millions of fans who will now get a chance to see the “real Cristiano”.
Ronaldo is also captain of Portugal’s national team, which in October secured its spot for Euro 2016 in France.
Asked if after his soccer playing career he might eye a position as head of FIFA or UEFA, the Real Madrid striker responded with a joke.
The film, made by the team behind documentaries on Racing driver, Ayrton Senna and singer, Amy Winehouse, looks at his professional side as well as shows tender moments between Ronaldo and his young son.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to pass the 500 goal mark and equalled an all-time club record as Real Madrid beat Malmo 2-0 in the Champions League.
The Portugal international, who had drawn blanks against Granada, Athletic Club and Malaga in recent weeks, finally hit the milestone in the 29th minute of Wednesday’s Group A clash with the Swedish champions.
He doubled his tally to equal Raul’s all-time record of 323 goals for the club, diverting home Lucas Vazquez’s right-wing cross in the final minute of the match.
The victory means Madrid have won both of their Group A matches, a record matched by Paris St-Germain, who were 3-0 winners at Shakhtar Donetsk.
With his five goals against Granada, Cristiano Ronaldo reached 300 as a Real Madrid player, making him the third Whites player to reach the figure after Raúl and Di Stéfano.
According to realmadrid.com, the Portuguese has hit the tally in 287 appearances and only has Raúl and Di Stéfano ahead of him. His scoring rate is impressive, and betters that of the two Madrid legends.
Raúl netted 323 times in 741 matches, with Di Stéfano picking up 308 in 396.
In his time at the Santiago Bernabéu, Cristiano Ronaldo has so far scored 214 goals in La Liga, 60 in the Champions League, 21 in the Copa del Rey, 3 in the Spanish Super Cup and 2 in the European Super Cup.
Hat-trick in eight minutes
The Real Madrid man notched an astonishing eight-minute hat-trick against Granada. He made it 2-0 on 30 minutes, before adding his team’s third with a close-range finish six minutes later and grabbing another for 4-0 with 38 on the clock.
In the second half, he capped his performance with two more goals. It’s the 28th time that Ronaldo has found the net three or more times in a match with Real Madrid, level with Di Stéfano.
Among La Liga’s historic goalscorers
Ronaldo continues to climb the scoring rankings in the competition, and has now moved to eighth on 214 goals, having overtaken Pahíño (211).
The Portuguese has taken 191 games to get to the figure, while the Galician forward played 278 for Celta, Real Madrid and Deportivo.
Quini (219 goals) is next in his sights in the list of all-time La Liga marksmen.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has joined English Championship side Watford, his former club Arsenal said on Tuesday.
Almunia is one of seven new signings made by manager Gianfranco Zola and joins the London club on a one-year deal.
“Former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has signed for Watford,” the Premier League club confirmed on its website (www.arsenal.com).
“The 35-year-old was released by the club this summer but will be training next door to his former team-mates in London Colney after agreeing a one-year deal with the Championship (second division) side.”
Almunia played 175 games for Arsenal including a substitute appearance in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona, but lost the jersey to Pole Wojciech Szczesny.
Watford were recently taken over by the Pozzo family who own Italian Serie A club Udinese and Spanish La Liga club Granada.
Other new arrivals include QPR defender Fitz Hall and several loan acquisitions from the fellow Pozzo family stable of clubs.
Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra and Steve Leo Beleck joined from Udinese on-loan as have Granada pair Daniel Pudil and Ikechi Anya.
Lionel Messi’s stunning hat-trick set a Barcelona scoring record of 234 goals as the La Liga champions won an action-packed home game against Granada 5-3 to close within five points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid on Tuesday.
With his sixth league treble of the season, the Argentine World Player of the Year also set a Spanish record of 54 goals in all competitions with more than two months of the campaign remaining and overhauled Cristiano Ronaldo to top the La Liga scoring charts on 34 goals, two more than the Real forward.
Still only 24, Messi is well on the way to earning an unprecedented fourth straight World Player award and achieved his latest scoring feat after becoming the first man to net five goals in a Champions League match earlier this month.
Tuesday’s haul took his tally to an incredible 17 goals in his last seven games for his club.
“I am sorry for those who want to occupy his throne but this lad is simply the best,” Barca coach Pep Guardiola told a news conference.
“Michael Jordan dominated his sport, Messi does the same in football. There’s nothing more to say.”
Real Madrid play their game in hand at Villarreal on Wednesday and have 71 points from 27 matches. Barcelona, chasing a fourth successive title, have 66 from 28 games.
Xavi’s neat volley from Messi’s headed assist put Barca ahead in the fourth minute at a rainy Nou Camp and Messi doubled their lead shortly after to match Cesar Rodriguez’s 60-year-old club scoring mark of 232 goals.
Isaac Cuenca’s deflected cross fell to him on the edge of the penalty area and he stroked the ball low into the net off the left-hand post.
Barca seemed in complete control but Granada pulled a goal back 10 minutes into the second half when Diego Mainz nodded in from a free kick and the visitors grabbed a shock equaliser from the penalty spot seven minutes later after Daniel Alves fouled Daniel Benitez.
Guilherme Siqueira kept his nerve amidst the whistling to beat Victor Valdes and make it 2-2 before Messi restored Barca’s lead just over 20 minutes from time.
Racing clear from an Alves pass, he lifted the ball over goalkeeper Julio Cesar before Barca substitute Cristian Tello made it 4-2 in the 82nd minute when he followed up Messi’s angled strike.
The unstoppable Argentine completed his hat-trick four minutes later, his 234th Barca goal in official matches, and in an eventful finale Alves was shown a second yellow card and dismissed for a handball in the area.
Siqueira beat Valdes from the spot for a second time as Granada became the first team to put three goals past Barca at the Nou Camp since Villarreal in 2009.
In the earlier kickoff, Osasuna missed a chance to climb above Levante and Malaga to fourth and into the Champions League qualifying place when they were held 0-0 at home to Getafe.