Euro kings Barcelona in sudden decline

Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas (left) and Sergio Busquets battling for the ball with Granada’s Youssef El-Arabi (second from left) and Cristian Bravo during their shock 1-0 loss at Granada. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas (left) and Sergio Busquets battling for the ball with Granada’s Youssef El-Arabi (second from left) and Cristian Bravo during their shock 1-0 loss at Granada. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

While Bayern have retained league title, Barca risk ending empty-handed

BERLIN - Two giants of European football are suffering a dramatic slump in their respective leagues, but at least one - Bayern Munich - have the consolation of a league title sewn up and a Champions League semi-final place secured.

Barcelona, on the other hand, followed up their Champions League exit with a shock 1-0 defeat by Granada on Saturday, a result that left their bid for a fifth Spanish La Liga title in six years in serious jeopardy.

Defeat saw Barca slip to third in the Spanish table with just five games to play.

"We no longer have matters in our own hands, but I couldn't ask for anything more from the players," said Barca coach Gerardo Martino, who saw four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi turn in yet another subdued performance.

"They created plenty of chances, but today it wasn't to be. I can't criticise them for anything apart from not finishing off the chances we had."

Barca have endured a hellish week as they were also dumped out of the Champions League before the semi-finals for the first time in seven years by Atletico Madrid in midweek.

The last realistic hope for Martino's men of winning some silverware this season therefore comes on Wednesday when they face arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

However, the Argentinian insisted his side will be up for the fight against Real having already beaten the Los Blancos twice this season.

"After the defeats we have had in the Champions League and the league, the team feel as if they have let important opportunities pass by," he said.

"But the game on Wednesday has nothing to do with the Champions League or La Liga. It is a final and we have to try and win it."

Over at Munich, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola admitted his side are suffering a Bundesliga slump after they suffered a second shock league defeat in their 3-0 home thrashing by Borussia Dortmund.

The reigning European champions have failed to win any of their three league matches since wrapping up the German title last month with a record seven games to spare and were humbled by Dortmund in the top-of-the-table clash.

Goals by the second-placed side's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Jonas Hofmann condemned Bayern to their first home league defeat since October 2012.

"In the first half we didn't get going and in the second half we dropped off our game somewhat," said Guardiola, who won 14 titles in four years as Barcelona coach.

"That's a problem you have when we've already won the league. Until now we've been a very good team defensively. Today we didn't show that," added the Spaniard, who has already won three titles in his first 10 months at Bayern - the Uefa Super Cup, domestic league and Club World Cup.

Unlike Barca, whose season is threatening to implode into disappointment, Bayern are still on track to retain their Champions League crown, when they face Real Madrid in the semi-finals later this month.

But worryingly, this was Bayern's second successive league defeat after crashing 1-0 at mid-table Augsburg the previous Saturday and being held 3-3 at home to Hoffenheim.

Munich's director of sport Matthias Sammer warned that a lackadaisical attitude may derail Bayern's ambitions.

"We may have won the German championship, but we have to be careful not to slip any further," he said. "We must get back to playing well."