Neymar could face a ban after slapping Antonio Barragan in Barcelona’s shock defeat to Valencia on Sunday.
The La Liga title race was blown wide upon as last season’s treble winners succumbed to their third straight league defeat.
And to compound the result, they could be without Neymar for some of or maybe all of the five remaining games after he was slapped Barragan at full-time. Scroll down to watch the video.
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The defender was celebrating Valencia’s win with two teammates.
Clearly irritated, Neymar, who played poorly, approached Barragan and slapped the side of his face. The 24-year-old quickly scampered away before the Valencia players could retaliate.
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The outburst is similar to the one Neymar was handed a four-game suspension for at last year’s Copa America. After Brazil lost 1-0 to Colombia, the national team captain kicked the ball at Pablo Armero and aimed a headbutt at Jeison Murillo.
It would appear Neymar isn’t the most honourable of losers.
He had to contend with Barcelona’s third straight league defeat as their lead atop La Liga rests on goal difference alone. An Ivan Rakitic own goal and Santi Mina strike gave Los Che a half-time lead.
Lionel Messi scored his 500th career goal in the 63rd minute but it proved to be worthless, Valencia hanging on for a memorable three points.
Real Madrid are now just a point behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
The Catalan side have won just one of their past six games in all competitions and crashed out of the Champions League in midweek. A fortnight ago they looked almost certain to win the treble, but Messi’s five-game goal drought combined with defensive errors has ruined those dreams.
The loss appeared certainly irritated Luis Enrique, who hasn’t seen his team win a league game since March 12.
When asked by Diario Gol journalist Victor Malo if the demanding physical preparation is having an impact on the team’s form, the Barca boss replied: “What was your surname?”, per Goal.
The journalist said: “Malo,” to which Enrique, usually so calm, hit back with: “Correct, next question.”
Despite the defeat, the 45-year-old wanted to praise his players “for the way they have handled the adversity”. This sounds like something out of the Jose Mourinho guide to management.
“These are games that are very difficult to play and the team came up with a magnificent response,” he said after Sunday’s game, per Barcelona’s website. “We played a very complete first half, but we were unlucky and we needed it to win the game.
“I remain positive about our level of play, we were very superior, but not so effective. We had very good stretches in the second half but it wasn't to be.
“I congratulate my players for the way they have handled the adversity. We just have to get back up. We depend on ourselves. We know how big of a challenge it is.
“Today is not a day to criticise my players, but to praise them.”