Messi blasts 'weak' team after Barcelona loses league title

July 16

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — After seeing Barcelona's Spanish league title defense come to a disappointing and meek end, Lionel Messi didn't hold back.

Messi blasted his team for being “weak” after Real Madrid wrested the league title away from Barcelona for the first time in three years on Thursday, and said it must quickly change course to have a chance at winning the Champions League.

Real Madrid clinched the title by beating Villarreal 2-1 but would have lifted the trophy regardless of that result after Barcelona slumped to a 2-1 loss to an Osasuna side that finished with 10 men.

“This game represents the entire year. We have been an erratic and weak team," Messi said in a rare TV interview just after the final whistle sounded at an empty Camp Nou. “Madrid did its part by winning all its matches, which is impressive, but we also helped them to win this league. We have to be critical of how we have played, starting with the players, and the rest of the club.”

Barcelona led the league by two points over Madrid when the league was stopped in mid-March for three months while Spain’s reined in its coronavirus outbreak.

Madrid returned to the competition motivated and in shape, reeling off 10 straight wins.

Barcelona looked flat, drew three matches to lose the lead, and on Thursday hit a new low when it lost its first home match since November 2018.

“The feeling on this team is that it tries, but that it cannot get the job done,” Messi said. “Today in the first half they were better than we were and it seems we have to fall behind to react like we tried to do in the second half.”

Messi scored his league-leading 23rd goal from a free kick in the second half to cancel out José Arnaíz’s opener.

And Barcelona got a man advantage when the visitors lost substitute Enric Gallego to a straight red card for bloodying the mouth of Clement Lenglet with an elbow to the face in the 77th.

But Osasuna’s Roberto Torres scored in stoppage time with Barcelona pushing forward searching for a late goal.

“I said it some time ago, that playing like this we had no chance of winning the Champions League, and it turns out we didn’t even have enough to win la Liga,” Messi said. “We need to take a breather, let some air in, and clean out minds of all that has happened since December.”

Barcelona must regroup for the second leg of its Champions League round-of-16 match against Napoli on Aug. 8. The first leg finished 1-1 in Italy.

“Playing like this we will lose against Napoli," Messi said. “We have to start from zero in the Champions League and blame ourselves for what went wrong."

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