Barcelona's seven-match winning streak came to an abrupt halt when they fell to a shock 3-1 defeat away to Levante after taking the lead by Messi opener but then conceding three times within seven minutes.
Valverde started the usual all-star front three of Messi, Luis Suarez, and Antoine Griezmann. Messi converted from a penalty after a foul on Nelson Semedo inside the box. Later, Luis Suarez was forced off in the 41st minute with an injury to his right calf and would now appear to be a doubt for Tuesday's Champions League game at home to Slavia Prague.
went into the break with a lead but in a rather unconvincing fashion.
What was particularly concerning about
, especially in a world fresh with memories of sensational collapses against Roma and Liverpool, is how all three of the hosts' goals came in a seven-minute spell.
A 38th-minute Lionel Messi penalty separated the two sides in the first half, but
replied with three goals in the space of seven minutes after the break.
Jose Campana pulled the hosts level in the 61st minute, shortly followed by Borja Mayoral putting them ahead. Nemanja Radoja's deflected effort increased their lead in the 68th minute.
had a second goal disallowed following a VAR review.
Although it was
's third defeat of the campaign, they still lead the standings on 22 points and a superior goal difference over Real Madrid, who were held to a goalless draw at home to Real Betis and are second on the same number of points.
giants will be replaced at the top of
if Real Madrid win at home to Real Betis on Saturday night.
Atletico Madrid are third on 21 after drawing 1-1 away to Sevilla, who are fourth, also on 21.
, who have won three of their last four home fixtures against Ernesto Valverde's side, moved up to eighth in the table on 17 points.
- Barcelona’s defensive woes made clear in loss vs. Levante
Conceding three goals in seven minutes is a nightmare for any team's defense. The
have had their worst start to a season defensively, allowing 14 goals in just eleven matches. The first two goals against
were defensive errors from Gerard Pique. The first one was a weak clearance from the Spaniard as
scored just after getting back possession. The second one was even worse as he was slow to pick up the turn of Borja Mayoral who scored from range.
There is no doubt that the
defense is slow and fragile. Maintaining a high line with two slow center-backs is very risky, and
paid massively for that.
had only three shots on target, converting all three to goals. The defense was disorganized with spaces for
players to run inside. Pique, who is supposed to be the leader at the back, led with mistakes. With only Todibo on the bench, the champions don't have any other proper replacements either. Thus, signing a center-back during the January window seems imminent.
- Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde’s
team selections at Levante are questionable
Despite signing Antoine Griezmann during the summer, Suarez plays almost every game for the full 90 minutes but isn't as clinical as expected. Messi and Suarez don't track back often enough when not in possession. The team defends with only nine men without the ball and on this match, Griezmann contributed more to defense than attack.
When Junior Firpo was fit and ready to play, the coach decided to play Nelson Semedo out of position in an already disarrayed backline. The confidence of the youngster will definitely be affected if this happens again. Moussa Wague hasn't featured in a single game after getting promoted to the first team this season. With no minutes under his belt, playing in the B team would have kept him at least match-fit. Alena doesn't make matchday squads and is struggling to become a part of the manager's plans.
Valverde needs to rethink his rotation policies considering plenty of options in the roster and no rotation used to avail of them.
It can be concluded that this result is another symptom of Valverde's tenure, yet the former Athletic Club coach is refusing to place too much importance on it.
"Of course I'm not thinking about resigning, it's just a defeat," Valverde confirmed in his post-match press conference.
"The players have responded and we have to continue [working]."We have lost a match and that's it; we always react and this time won't be any different."
Valverde believes that the attitude of his players was good.
"It's true that they have scored three goals, but our attitude was always good," he intimated.
"The opponent played their game; sometimes this happens and we just have to accept it.
"We have nothing to say and we move onto the next thing, as we do in football."
- Barcelona's away drought have resurfaced
The Catalans have been poor away from the Camp Nou this season and Cules were worried about tough away fixtures in the UCL. But, wins against Getafe and Eibar in the League rekindled their hopes, which lasted a very short while and Barca were lucky to get away with a win against Slavia Prague in Europe. Barcelona were not at their best against Levante and were complacent in both attack and defense. They have conceded nine away goals this season and scored only ten.
They still don't seem to have recovered from their Anfield nightmare and away matches seem to affect them if these away performances continue, Barcelona will find themselves in a very tough situation in UCL knockouts. The team seniors and the support staff must analyze what happens in away games in order to find a solution as soon as possible.
Barcelona host Slavia Prague in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday before welcoming Celta Vigo to the Camp Nou in La Liga next Saturday. The following day, Levante face Athletic Bilbao in league play.