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Barcelona: Continued Lack of Urgency Will Cost Them the Title

Lionel Messi was marked out of yet another game by lowly Elche.
Lionel Messi was marked out of yet another game by lowly Elche.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press
Jason PettigroveContributor IMay 11, 2014

Barcelona played against Elche today in much the same manner as they have against the other sides battling against relegation.

Even taking into account a wonderful home record for Elche in 2014where they are still yet to lose a gameBarca looked anything but champions-elect.

From first until last minute, fans were kept on the edge of their seats as time and again the journeyman professionals of the Alicante side kept the Blaugrana superstars at bay.

For example, Lionel Messi was no match for David Lomban—a £50,000 capture from Barca B!

Barca simply could not get through a well marshalled Elche defence.
Barca simply could not get through a well marshalled Elche defence.David Ramos/Getty Images

Barca's general all-round performance mirrored those against Real Valladolid, Granada and Getafe.

The first of the quartet you could put down to "one of those things," but there's no real excuse for a continued lack of application and honesty on the football pitch from players of such standing.

Whilst Tata Martino will again take the rap to a certain extent, the blame cannot simply be heaped upon the manager week after week.

Tata Martino will take the blame again, but the players must share their responsibility.
Tata Martino will take the blame again, but the players must share their responsibility.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Elche set up as a compact 4-2-3-1 which reverted to a much more defensive 4-5-1 when required. There were virtually no spaces in between the lines for Barca to go about their work, but it is a tactic that has been employed against them many times already this season, so the players are therefore familiar with it.

It's a basic tactical requirement to be able to counter such a setup, and the Catalans have certainly had enough practice in the recent past, so it should not have been too difficult to pick the lock in at least one of the aforementioned matches.

The stats fell heavily in favour of the Blaugrana once again on Sunday night, so what is the problem?

What appears to be central to the inability to close the game out is a lack of fluidity and movement.

Where once Barca tended to waltz through matches, their play has now become staccato. Almost every player is overthinking each aspect of play rather than allowing it to flow naturally.

And with Messi marked out of the game for long periods again, no other player really stepped up to perform.

Cesc Fabregas was a big disappointment, similarly Pedro Rodriguez. Alexis Sanchez can't be faulted for his effort, but in truth he wasn't particularly incisive either in the big moments.

Cesc Fabregas was hugely disappointing once again.
Cesc Fabregas was hugely disappointing once again.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Xavi Hernandez being given only 10 minutes to work some magic is nothing short of a disgrace, and Martino must be held accountable for such an omission. A rotation policy that has often been found wanting should have been dispensed with some weeks ago.

With Atletico Madrid now on the horizon in a "winner take all" scenario, Barca have to find the same urgency they showed back in March against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Whilst games have been won since then, none of the victories have come in the same manner.

The fizz has disappeared from the champagne. Is Barca's title party about to fall flat?

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