A 'difficult task' for Barcelona to retain LaLiga title, claims Busquets

By Sports Desk June 30, 2020

Sergio Busquets conceded Barcelona face an uphill battle to retain their LaLiga crown after a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi scored his 700th goal but it was not enough for Barca to claim all three points at Camp Nou, where Saul Niguez scored two penalties to earn Atleti a share of the spoils.

The draw leaves Barca one point behind leaders Real Madrid, who could move four clear with a win over Getafe on Thursday.

There are five games remaining for Barca to turn things around, but midfielder Busquets acknowledged their fate may well now be out of their hands.

"Look, to fight for the title is really complicated if you're dropping two points each two games, but we're going to keep fighting until the end," the Spain international told Movistar.

"We know it's difficult but we're going to try. They're a difficult rival. We dominated and created chances but the two penalties, penalised us – it's been a real shame.

"We were leaders and in a perfect situation before the break. I think it's been difficult for us since – some matches we've played better, others we haven't.

"Dropping points today and at the weekend means we're a little bit further away from our goal, which is to retain the title. I think we played better today but it's a difficult task ahead of us."

Diego Costa's own goal from Messi's corner put Barcelona ahead, before Saul hauled Atleti level from 12 yards – his goal coming after Costa had seen his penalty saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, only for a VAR check to spot the goalkeeper had moved off his line.

Messi chipped home his landmark goal from the penalty spot shortly after half-time, yet Saul kept his composure with his second spot-kick of the match.

Yannick Carrasco won both of Atleti's penalties, and the Belgian – who returned to the club in January following a stint in China – was buoyed by the visitors' resilience.

"We always want to win, but I think the team played well. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get the three points," he said.

"We have to keep working and think about the next game. We were playing against one of the best teams in the world. A point away from home is always positive but we wanted to win.

"It's the attitude which is the most important facet of this team always. After that we can win or lose, but if the attitude is the correct one then the coach is happy. Today wasn't to be but we can be proud of our performance."

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    Barcelona boss Quique Setien is clinging to the hope Real Madrid will falter to allow for a late twist in the title race.

    Despite holding a narrow LaLiga lead when the season resumed, Barcelona have slipped four points behind their great rivals and only four rounds of games remain.

    A coronation for Zinedine Zidane's team appears inevitable, given they have won seven straight fixtures since the league's suspension ended.

    But Setien is refusing to wave the white flag, saying on Tuesday: "Of course we can still win LaLiga. Mathematics says it. We have to keep hope until the final day.

    "We have to look at what we can do. Win, leave good feelings, make progress. And if not in this situation, everything we do is worth it for the next one."

    Should Barcelona take the title battle down to the final day, that would be a small triumph in itself given current circumstances.

    They have the Champions League resumption to come in August, then a new LaLiga season after that, and Setien wants to see signs of progress from a team who have struggled since COVID-19 caused the 2019-20 campaign to be stalled for three months.

    Victory in the home derby against Espanyol on Wednesday is surely imperative.

     

    Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has indicated he plans to keep Setien on for the 2020-21 season, with the coach speaking of "the circus that is football" as speculation surrounded his position.

    "The club are happy with the work we do, I focus on that," he said in a news conference. "I don't value whether we win a game or lose others. I don't live daily, I work with more perspective.

    "We are quite happy, as I have said on numerous occasions. Results are one thing and the feelings are another."

    Setien feels his team are performing better than their results have been indicating, speaking of "very good moments" in the matches where Barcelona have dropped points. Three draws, alongside the four wins they have achieved since LaLiga returned, have been costly.

    Coach Setien was cheered by Antoine Griezmann's delicious chip in Sunday's 4-1 win at Villarreal, where the Frenchman was given a more central attacking role than in previous games and thrived on the responsibility.

    "He has enough ability to show his level," Setien said. "The other day there was a moment of inspiration and the players who played on the inside and the threat on the outside were closely linked. Sergi Roberto helped and did things very well."

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    Josep Maria Bartomeu believes Xavi will become Barcelona boss one day, though he has given his support to current coach Quique Setien.

    Xavi, who holds the record for the most Barca appearances of all time, has long been linked with the top job at Camp Nou, where he spent 17 trophy-laden years as a player.

    He was considered one of the front-runners to take the post when Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January only to suggest he was not ready, which led Barca to turn to Setien.

    Xavi has since said he wants to be Barcelona coach and has been tipped to succeed the under-fire Setien, but on Sunday the ex-Barcelona midfielder signed a contract extension as coach of Qatari club Al-Sadd.

    And though the jury remains out on Setien given his side have fallen four points behind Real Madrid in LaLiga, Bartomeu has given him his backing.

    "Setien will continue, obviously," he told RAC1.

    "I do not regret Valverde's change. The team needed a boost. Setien knows our DNA, the model and has brought new airs and new ideas.

    "The coaches are obviously subject to the results, but I am happy with the evolution of the team."

    On Xavi's coaching credentials, Bartomeu added: "[Xavi is] a great coach who I am sure will one day come to Barca."

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    Bartomeu has remained steadfast in his belief that the 33-year-old will retire with the Blaugrana and said the club will do all they can to extend his deal.

    "He has a contract until 2021 – normally we do not explain the conversations with the players but it is evident that we have an obligation to renew him," he said.

    "Messi is the best player in the world."

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