Losing their edge
Guillem Balague explains why Barcelona were not as sharp as usual and Graham Hunter defends Victor Valdes.
Last Updated: 29/01/13 3:10pm
Fatigue is taking its toll on Barcelona, Guillem Balague told Revista.
The Catalan giants suffered their first La Liga defeat of the season at Real Sociedad on Saturday and, although Barcelona have failed to win at the Anoeta for three seasons, Balague says tiredness is affecting Tito Vilanova's side this term.
"There are places where you don't play your best football and this seems to be one of those places for Barcelona," Balague told Revista. "It is three seasons now where they have not been able to get three points.
"But we were talking recently about the Malaga game in the league as one of the best games of the Tito Vilanova era, or perhaps of Barcelona in the last five years, and we have gone from that to this.
"I am sure there is a problem with excessive confidence, especially when they are 2-0 up but there is another point that the Barcelona staff are making. It is not an excuse but they are saying that they are in the third week of a four week kind of pre-season - a lot of work is being put into their legs so they can last the whole season.
"There was a worry last year that they ended the season a bit tired - both mentally and physically - and they felt now was the right time to do it.
"So maybe in this game they were not physically or mentally as sharp as they should have been."
Marcelino said that it was a fantastic win for Real Sociedad, who battled back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, and that their high risk tactics paid off.
"Sometimes when players are so used to winning games so easily they get to a point where they relax a bit; they are so confident that they get conned by the opposition" said the former Newcastle and Mallorca defender.
"Barcelona lost the chance of killing the game in the first half and allowed Sociedad to come back into the game and their high risk plan to press Barcelona at the right times paid off.
"It was a fantastic win for them and they worked very well in pressing and they passed the ball very well from the back.
"Sociedad where able to put a lot of balls into the Barcelona box, which is unusual because we don't see so many attacks against them normally. Barcelona may not be the best dealing with those sorts of crosses and Sociedad did that very well."
Graham Hunter agreed that Sociedad's tactics worked but says he cannot be too critical of Barcelona who failed to make the most of their chances.
Hunter said: "They had a game plan but that game plan could be in tatters if you are being torn apart.
"I think defeat has got many fathers, I don't want to jump on Barcelona and say you can identify every flaw. But there is a pattern - Barcelona missed a lot of chances to kill this game off, and that is not their normal form, they don't often let people of the hook."
Unfair on Valdes
Hunter also believes there has been a total overreaction regarding goalkeeper Victor Valdes' refusal to sign a new contract with Barcelona.
Valdes has said that he will not resign for the club where he has won three Champions League titles and won the Ricardo Zamora trophy (awarded to the La Liga goalkeeper who has conceded the fewest goals-to-games in the season) for the last four seasons. The 30-year-old has spent his entire professional career at the Nou Camp but has caused an outcry by revealing that he would like to move to another league.
"I have been very critical about some of the local journalists who have used the words like treachery and treason," said Hunter.
"Life is about adventure, too. Do they want to deny Valdes the chance to experience another football culture for, what was his biggest sin, being honest with the club and the fans and saying what he wanted to do?"