Barcelona caused a frenzy on Wednesday night when they crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
Many expected the Catalan club to become the first team in history to retain the big-eared trophy but they succumbed to a 3-2 aggregate defeat to their Spanish rivals.
And the biggest culprits? Lionel Messi and Neymar, Barcelona’s superstars.
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In a true indictment of the pair’s performance, Spanish newspaper Sport ripped into the South American duo in their post-match analysis.
While Sport awarded Andres Iniesta a seven for his efforts, Messi and Neymar were both given the lowest grade of any Barcelona player: three.
The Argentine bore much of the brunt for the defeat as he extended his goal drought to five matches, but Neymar was equally ineffective.
That is reflected in Sport’s ratings. The paper said of Messi’s performance: “A state of worry continues over his hibernation. Nothing goes for him, not even free-kicks. His lack of intensity was a huge problem.
“Luis Enrique needs to solve whatever is happening because the league and cup are at stake.”
Meanwhile, the Brazil captain was, “absent. More Robinho than Ronaldinho, at least if you just look at recent performances.”
MSN were anonymous
Atletico’s ferocious supporters were certain to create an intimidating atmosphere inside the Vicente Calderon but Enrique will have expected his biggest stars to rise above it.
Yet Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez couldn’t get anything going. Having scored 109 goals between them this season, MSN weren’t afforded any clear-cut chances in the second leg.
The defeat leaves Barca’s dream of winning back-to-back trebles in tatters. And after having their lead in La Liga cut to three points with a string of poor results, both Madrid clubs smell blood.
Bale is waiting to pounce
Barcelona are short of confidence and Gareth Bale certainly thinks Real Madrid can capitalise. Los Blancos trailed their rivals from Catalonia by 12 points just a few weeks ago but victory in El Clasico, combined with Barca’s defeat to Real Sociedad last week, has closed the gap to four points.
The Welshman said on the prospect of winning a La Liga and Champions League double: “As I said after the Barcelona game, a loss always creates a doubt in the team for them and hopefully that’s the case,” per Sport.
"All we can do is concentrate on ourselves and try and win every game and see where that takes us.”
The title is Barcelona’s to lose - neither of their final six opponents are in the top 11 - but momentum is an undervalued aspect of sport, and the reigning champions currently have none of it.