Barcelona’s top four dream in La Liga may not happen after a 1-0 loss at home to relegation-threatened Cadiz on Monday.
On the heels of their shock Europa League loss at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, Lucas Perez’s close-range finish early in the second half doomed Barca to a second straight defeat.
Barcelona remained in second place, level on points with Sevilla in third and Atletico Madrid in fourth, while Real Betis were only three points behind in fifth. The team of Xavi Hernandez has a game in hand over the three teams below them.
However, Barca has now won only one of their past four games, an injury-time winner against Levante, who are currently in 19th place.
Any ambitions they had of making leaders Real Madrid feel uneasy are already gone, with Madrid leading by 15 points and having played one extra game.
“We have to be critical of ourselves,” Xavi remarked. “We must speak directly to each other’s faces. This is Barca, and we must improve. We need to display greater hunger, faith, and character at home. This was a championship game, and we hadn’t played it like that before.”
Cadiz have moved up to 16th place, two points clear of the relegation zone after Barcelona’s win.
The Catalans’ loss to Frankfurt on Thursday was especially difficult to swallow because they effectively gave up their home advantage by allowing almost 20,000 away fans inside Camp Nou.
On Saturday, Xavi declared that Barca had been “robbed in their own house,” and one of the club’s most vocal fan groups skipped the game against Cadiz in protest, with the section behind the goal at one end vacant.
“Everyone is needed,” Xavi stated. “Barca needs to unite more than ever before.”
On Monday, controversy engulfed Gerard Pique after El Confidencial reported that the defender’s firm, Kosmos, will receive 24 million euros for its role in shifting the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. Due to a hamstring injury, Pique did not play against Cadiz.
Aside from the concerns with the Frankfurt supporters and Pique, Xavi is dealing with the team’s first serious setback since his appointment in November.
Barcelona cannot afford to miss out on Champions League qualification, given the club’s debts were over a billion euros at the start of the season.
Cadiz should have been up at halftime, but Perez shot wide after Ruben Sobrino gave him a clean finish.
Barcelona’s greatest chance fell to Ousmane Dembele, who was unable to finish off a driving move, his shot going straight at Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.
Cadiz continued to create the better chances, and they seized the lead two minutes into the second half. Jordi Alba lost the ball in midfield, and Alex’s cross found Sobrino, whose header was parried by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, only to be followed in by Perez.
Alex missed a chance to put Barca out of sight after Ivan Alejo’s pull-back, and Barcelona’s Luuk de Jong, who came on as a replacement, headed straight at Ledesma.
Sergio Busquets put Ledesma to the test with a late long-range shot, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang volleyed straight at the goalie late on, leaving Gavi unable to reach the rebound.