Stuttering Barcelona stunned by Getafe

When Barcelona travelled over to Madrid on Saturday night to play Getafe, nobody was expecting the 90 minutes that followed. Getafe were languishing in 16th position going into the game with La Liga’s all-conquering juggernauts who were eighteen points ahead in 2nd position. However, the form book was well and truly thrown out the window as David triumphed over Goliath; Barcelona, fresh from an impressive display to defeat AC Milan in the San Siro in the Champions League night of Wednesday, produced a lacklustre display as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss in the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

Josep Guardiola welcomed back Gerard Pique and Dani Alves who both missed the trip to Italy, and also recalled Alexis Sanchez to the multi-talented attacking triumvirate alongside David Villa and Lionel Messi, it was quintessential Catalan as the away side dominated possession for long periods, but were strangely subdued in the final third. The wondrous Messi looked typically threatening, bending a free-kick wide before being denied by goalkeeper Miguel Moya, while at the other end Miku looked lively as Getafe carved significant openings of their own. Messi tested Moya again after the break but it was Getafe who broke the deadlock, full-back Juan Valera heading home a corner from Pablo Sarabia. The visitors then sprang to life; Messi’s persistence nearly yielded an equaliser as he netted only to see it chalked off by a disputed offside flag, whilst there was still time for the effervescent Argentine to hit the post courtesy of his diverted touch to a drive from Pedro. Despite the onslaught, the minnows hung on to record Barcelona’s first defeat of the season, a run stretching 27 games from as far as April.

This was a blow struck to the epicentre of Barcelona’s title credentials; they are now six points adrift of bitter rivals Real Madrid who quite comfortably disposed of Ateltico in the Madrid derby at the Bernabau on the same evening.  With the first El Clasico of the season scheduled for December 10th, Jose Mourinho’s men have opened up a strong lead at the top and Barcelona look out of sorts ahead of the trip back to Madrid, having won only two of six away assignments in this season’s La Liga. The Catalans remain in second place, a solitary point ahead of an in-form Valencia who have won six of their last seven games, leading to claims that La Liga is not following the general consensus that it is morbidly unbalanced in favour of the big two. It is indeed a far cry from the 21 point gap between runners-up Real Madrid and third place Valencia at the culmination of last season, or even the 26 point gap between the two in the same places of the season before.

Many people will point to the inequality of television rights, as they have been so quick to do so with domestic proposition to follow suit, as evidence that an all-conquering duopoly is still prescient, Barcelona have won 5-0 three times and once 8-0 this season, achieving an aggregate score-line of 30 to zero in their six games at the Nou Camp while Real Madrid sit at the summit having scored 46 goals and conceding ten, achieving a tally of 6 or more goals in one game in 3 matches so far. The defeat to over-achieving Levante being the only set-back for Jose Mourinho’s fluent machine, but that was an anomaly bordering on the freakily miraculous when the alarming disparity of budgets, Cristiano Ronaldo earns twice alone the total of the small Valencia clubs’ wage budget.

After the opening day results of Barcelona and Real Madrid, 5-0 and 6-0 respectively, the dissenting voices to La Liga’s top two held a meeting to find a solution to the dominance that was harming the league’s attractiveness around the continent. Sevilla’s president Jose Maria Del Nido declared it “the biggest pile of junk in Europe” in the aftermath of the opening day massacres and together with Villarreal president Fernando Roig, he was instrumental in bringing 12 La Liga clubs together to discuss some of the most potent issues that were affecting La Liga’s domestic appeal, such as the distribution of TV rights, proposing a collective deal that would begin to install at least an element of competitiveness in the transfer market and on the playing field. It was after all, a worrying trend that players like David Silva and Sergio Aguero were originating from teams that, despite having two UEFA cups and two Champions League final appearances to their name in the last decade, had no chance of splitting the two entrenched at the very top of the Spanish domestic game.

Since that watershed meeting, the little guy has to some extent, bitten back to allay fears that this season will just be another procession hinging on the results from the two Clasico dates, Unai Emery’s Valencia do seem to be capable of holding a genuine challenge to the  duo’s authority, having held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw and running Real Madrid close to a 2-3 defeat in the Mestalla, while Levante still defy logic to remain in fourth on the league’s smallest budget despite a recent decline in form, they travel to the Nou Camp in the forthcoming weekend. Real Sociedad, Sevilla, and Athletico Bilbao, who were denied in the last minute by Leo Messi, have joined Valencia in halting the Barca steam-train while Getafe went one further by claiming all three points on Saturday evening. A word must be given to them too, their biggest signing in the summer was the goal provider £2.6 million worth of Pablo Sarabia, small change compared to the £52 million Barcelona outlaid on Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez combined; the latter being distinctively poor in Getafe.

As the final whistle rang out on Barcelona’s 27 match unbeaten run, there came a sense of fallibility to Pep Guardiola’s seemingly untouchable superstars and a perception that now, Real Madrid’s lead at the top is insurmountable given that Jose Mourinho will not experience the kind of challenge to his team’s dominance that Barcelona will provide them in only two matches, but such a view may well be naïve as Levante, for instance, may be quick to point out. There is an air that this is not following the identical script as recent predictable La Liga campaigns even though the usual suspects do sit at the top, Getafe and Levante have shown amongst others, that life does still breath in the less recognisable clubs in the division and the neutral is beginning to get a better deal as a result. It is La Liga Jim, but not as we know it, certainly not as Fernando Roig said, “boring”. 

Adam Gray @MonkeyLunch21




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