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03 December 2023

Messi missing in costly Barca defeat

Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (left) vies with Malaga's Venezuelan defender Roberto Jose Rosales during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs Malaga CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 21, 2015. (AFP)

By Reuters

Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi has been the driving force behind their recent prolific form but was largely anonymous in a costly home defeat by Malaga in La Liga on Saturday.

Messi's influence at the club was clear for all to see as an off-day for the Argentine meant Barca failed to get the victory that would have put them two points clear at the top of the table with Real Madrid playing at Elche on Sunday.

Barca coach Luis Enrique refused to single out any players after the 1-0 defeat left them a point off the pace.

"It would be wrong to point to individuals and particularly after a defeat. The team wasn't at the necessary level and that is it," Luis Enrique told a news conference.

"We were not good enough individually or as a team and all our attacks in the second half turned into breakaways for the opposition.

"We tried to attack too much through the centre and this is now a damaging result for us.

"Malaga played well and I would like to think this was just an accident but we will see what happens over the next few weeks."

Messi was at his scintillating best during Barca's 11-match winning streak, a run that was abruptly ended by Malaga.

The prolific striker, who had scored 26 league goals before this weekend, resembled a pale imitation of his usual self on Saturday as he was off pace and gave the ball away frequently.

Luis Enrique said that Barca were used to teams packing their defence and that it is something that they have to cope with.

"This is something that often happens in matches like this unfortunately," he said.

"On other occasions we have been able to respond quickly to going a goal behind but it is not always the case.

"We found it difficult to create chances and we were too disorganised. It is crucial to keep your order so as to win games."

Barca need to quickly bounce back as they face Manchester City on Tuesday in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"We will see what happens. Defeats are painful and it is not easy to overcome them," said Luis Enrique.

"We do, though, have a fantastic challenge in three days to look forward to."