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What's gone wrong with Barca?


09:46, February 28, 2013

MADRID, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Tuesday was a cold night in FC Barcelona' s Camp Nou Stadium and the 98,000 fans in the stands had very little comfort on the pitch as their side was beaten 3-1 at home to Real Madrid in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey.

As if losing to their historic rival was not bad enough, it was the second important defeat suffered by the leaders of the BBVA Primera Liga and follows on from a 2-0 setback away to AC Milan in the San Siro Stadium in the Champions League: a game that had ended with the Barca players promising to set right the errors they had committed.

That clearly didn't happen against Real Madrid as Barca fell into the same errors as before, looking static and nervy in possession of the ball while at the same time worryingly fragile in defense.

Madrid' s three goals, which came thanks to two counter-attacks, one of which provoked a penalty and the other a tap in from Cristiano Ronaldo, and a free header buried by Rafael Varene, highlighted Barca' s defensive frailties which have seen them concede goals in their last 12 matches.

Barca struggle to defend set pieces, given in part a lack of height in a side containing small players such as Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Dani Alves, Cesc Fabrigas and Xavi Hernandez, but they also look open to the counter-attack.

Alves may be a fine player going forward, but defensively he has made errors, the most important of which is his tendency to get dragged out of position into the middle of the pitch, allowing rivals to get in behind him.

That is partly due to Barca' s attacking strategy, which sees him and left back Jordi Alba committed to attack and central defenders, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique forced to cover extra spaces. Sergio Busquets, who plays the holding midfield role has in the past, provided cover, but against Milan and Madrid, Busquets was out of position, 15 yards too far forward.

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