Barca title bid hit by shock loss at Valladolid

Sat Mar 8, 2014 6:21pm EST
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By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona's bid for a fifth La Liga title in six years suffered a surprise setback when they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Real Valladolid on Saturday which opened the door for Real Madrid to pull away at the top.

It was one of Barca's worst performances of the season, particularly during an atrocious first half when Juventus cast-off Fausto Rossi scored for the home side, and raised serious doubts about their form ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Manchester City.

Real, who host Barca in the "Clasico" in two weeks, can stretch their lead over their arch-rivals to four points with a win at home to Levante on Sunday.

Barca slipped to third and Atletico Madrid climbed into provisional first place thanks to a 2-0 win at Celta Vigo when former Barca forward David Villa struck twice in two minutes to improve his chances of making Spain's World Cup squad.

Real and Atletico each have 64 points, with the latter top due to a superior head-to-head record over their city neighbors, and Barca are on 63.

Valladolid climbed out of the relegation zone into 17th.

Most of the Barca players were in international action in midweek and many looked jaded and short of inspiration in a lethargic display at Valladolid's Jose Zorrilla stadium marked by uncharacteristic sloppiness.

"We failed to create going forward, in our passing and in our mobility and that's why we did not get the desired result," coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during his team's Spanish first division soccer match against Valladolid at Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid March 8, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez