5 Games That Broke Barcelona's Season

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

5 Games That Broke Barcelona's Season

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    There would be something not quite right if Barcelona claim the title next weekend with a win over Atletico Madrid.

    The Catalans have looked a shadow of their former selves recently but remarkably are three points away from maintaining La Liga.

    It hasn't been a good season for Barca, and even if they do finish with the trophy it's important to analyse the reality rather than the result.

    Stylistically, tactically, physically and mentally they haven't been at the top of their game. Manager Gerardo Martino will almost certainly depart, but in order to move forward the new coach will need to look at where they fell short.

    Here are the five matches that ruined Barcelona's season.

5. Athletic Bilbao 1 Barcelona 0 (La Liga), 1/12/13

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    The new San Mames has been a fortress all season long for Athletic Bilbao as the Basques claimed Champions League football.

    It was Barcelona's first league defeat of the campaign and their second in a week after they lost to Ajax in Europe.

    The warning signs had been on display for a while, but the good results meant that few took them too seriously.

    These were particularly prevalent as the Dutch produced a style that was once evident at Barcelona, whilst Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde was previously wanted by the club.

    Both performances were a reminder to the Barcelona board that they could have gone in a different direction and maintained what had made them so successful.

4. Barcelona 2 Valencia 3 (La Liga), 1/2/14

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    The first defeat at the Camp Nou was made worse by the fact it wasn't a particularly good Valencia side.

    When they had lost previously they were without key personnel such as Victor Valdes and Lionel Messi, but this was arguably their strongest first XI, with only Neymar missing.

    After falling behind in the match for a second time, they had a half-hour to find an equaliser. Instead, Jordi Alba was sent off, and they offered little going forward.

    This game made it only one win in Barcelona's four previous matches after draws with Atletico Madrid and Levante.

3. Atletico Madrid 1 Barcelona 0 (Champions League), 9/4/14

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    This felt like a real shift in momentum from Barcelona to Atletico Madrid.

    The two teams' previous four meetings this season had ended all square, and both teams could take away some positives.

    It wasn't just the fact that this match knocked Barcelona out of Europe or that Atleti had found a way to beat their title rivals.

    The manner in which Diego Simeone's team went about their business was as impressive as Martino's side's performance was disturbing.

2. Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 1 (Copa Del Rey), 16/4/14

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    The 85th-minute goal from Gareth Bale was illustrative not only of the match but of the differences between Real Madrid and Barcelona at that time.

    Los Blancos had put 13 goals past Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Almeria whilst negotiating their way past Borussia Dortmund in Europe.

    Barca had unconvincingly beaten Espanyol but then lost consecutive matches with Atletico Madrid and Granada.

    Madrid had found another gear and was pulling away; their arch-rivals were struggling to keep up and faltering badly.

1. Barcelona 2 Getafe 2 (La Liga), 3/5/14

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    After the disappointment of the Copa del Rey, Barcelona put their troubles behind them with back-to-back wins over Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal.

    They had the opportunity to chase Atletico Madrid down and make the run-in extremely difficult. This is unfamiliar territory for Simeone's team, who were always likely to wobble at some point.

    Angel Lafita's goal in the last minute sunk Barcelona both on the pitch and mentally. Other results that weekend meant that it was a point gained.

    The damage had already been done. Martino's body language had transmitted that sentiment to the players, and none of them truly believed they could win the league.