BARCELONA • Barcelona's misfiring forward line left manager Luis Enrique scratching his head again on Saturday as last season's treble winners went down to a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla.
The Catalan football side's trident attack hit a record 122 goals as Barca won La Liga, the Spanish Cup and the Champions League last season. But they have struggled to reach that level in the current campaign.
Lionel Messi has missed the last two matches through injury but even before that, he was not at his deadly best while both Neymar and Luis Suarez have lacked sharpness.
With the goal flow slowed, Barca's defending has come under the spotlight.
NOT YET IN FORM
We are not anywhere near our best at the moment but this will change, I have no doubt. We looked for the openings but we were not able to take advantage of them when they came.
LUIS ENRIQUE, Barcelona coach
They were thrashed 4-1 at Celta Vigo and a second successive away defeat followed at Sevilla.
Sevilla took control early in the second half as Michael Krohn-Dehli timed his run into the box to sweep home Kevin Gameiro's dangerous low cross.
The Dane was also involved in the second six minutes later as his floated cross was nodded home by Vicente Iborra.
Neymar halved the deficit from the penalty spot but Sevilla withstood relentless pressure to register their first league win over Barcelona.
Not since 2002-03 have the Catalan giants lost two of their first seven matches of a La Liga season.
In between those two defeats was a narrow 2-1 win over newly-promoted Las Palmas and a rather fortunate 2-1 home defeat of Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, having trailed with 10 minutes remaining.
"Normally you can expect the highest level from our players," Enrique told a news conference.
"Coaches and teams look to create the most number of chances for the top players to score.
"We are not anywhere near our best at the moment but this will change, I have no doubt.
"We looked for the openings but we were not able to take advantage of them when they came."
Barca have been stretched by the Fifa transfer ban that has prevented them from making signings during the last two transfer windows and this along with injuries has meant they have had to rely on youth players.
"This was a game where both teams had a lot of chances and it is incredible that we have come away with just one goal," added Enrique, whose side had 28 shots on goal.
Neymar was particularly unlucky not to have netted a brace.
The Brazilian had a free kick hit the post, rebound off Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico's back and somehow the ball trickled along the line before being hacked clear.
"There were 15 minutes in the second half though where Sevilla were on top and that has cost us. We tried everything to come back but it was not possible," said Enrique.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE