Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has bemoaned the club's preparations ahead of the 2019-20 campaign and said Ernesto Valverde's squad had "not the best" pre-season this past summer.
The Blaugrana collected their third win of the La Liga season on Tuesday after goals from Antoine Griezmann and Arthur sealed a 2-1 win over Villarreal, although Lionel Messi came off at half-time due to injury.
Barcelona bounced back to winning ways having suffered a 2-0 defeat at Granada in their previous game.
Pique, 32, spoke to reporters after the match and suggested his side have room to improve:
"The pre-season did not help at all to start well in the competition, a lot of travel and little training. Many of us notice it and we don't have the tone yet, not only Messi, but we must continue because we are forced to win, it is a setback.
"Look now what has happened to Messi, but there are no excuses, in the team, there are qualified people to replace him and move on, although we hope he will be out as short as possible."
Santi Cazorla pulled one back for the Yellow Submarine before half-time on Tuesday, though it wasn't enough to prevent Barca from adding another three points to their tally:
Valverde's side sit sixth in the standings and are one point behind first-place Granada—who are level with Athletic Bilbao and rivals Real Madrid—though that gap could stretch again on Wednesday.
Pique's remarks appear to hint at deeper concerns with the club's pre-season considering they won four of their five games (including the 2-1 Joan Gamper Trophy victory over Arsenal). Chelsea were the only team to get the better of the Blaugrana during the summer.
Messi's hip adductor issue was particularly unwelcome after he made his first start of the season following a calf injury, though Valverde played down fears over his fitness:
The Argentinian came off the bench in their recent UEFA Champions League trip to Borussia Dortmund but couldn't force the breakthrough as Barca settled for a 0-0 draw. The opening hour of that match is not the only time his team have looked slightly lost in attack without their talisman.
Barcelona lost 1-0 away to Athletic in their opening match of the season when Aritz Aduriz came off the bench to net an unlikely winner for Los Leones.
The Spanish Football Podcast highlighted during that game—before the winning strike—the difference between the two teams' pre-season schedules:
It's had a lasting effect on their competitive campaign, too, as Barca have gone on to drop seven of a possible 18 points on offer thus far.
Real, Athletic and Osasuna are the only teams in La Liga yet to record a loss this season, while defending champions Barca have already suffered two and are still getting up to top speed.