BARCELONA HAVE MADE A STUMBLING START TO THEIR TITLE DEFENCE IN SPAIN.
A clean sweep of domestic and European trophies last season could not have been better for Barcelona and their new manager Luis Enrique, but after seven games and two defeats, the 2015/16 season has shown there are hairline cracks beneath the façade.
Fourth position in La Liga just will not do for the club’s expectant mountain of fans and even more demanding hierarchy, although the faults in the architecture started to show in pre-season as Barça crashed shockingly 4-0 to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
A limp effort at clawing back the deficit at the Camp Nou ended in a 1-1 draw and an embarrassing aggregate score overall.
The defence of their title began slowly adequately with 1-0 wins over Athletic Bilbao and Malaga before their first real test away to Atletico Madrid.
Lionel Messi was strangely dropped from the starting lineup for the visit to the Manzanares, a first hint perhaps of waning powers, but the magician returned in the second half and cast his old spells to help the Blaugrana k.o. one of their closest rivals. So far so good, winning while playing badly, the hallmark of champions.
That crucial away win seemed to spell another Pkv Games season of Catalan conquest, an impression Real added to by drawing at home to Gijon and away to Malaga.
A 4-1 win over Levante followed before a result no-one foresaw, a 4-1 thrashing at Celta Vigo.
The Galicians tore their visitors apart and left Gerard Pique and colleagues looking slow and lacking appetite.
Then Messi succumbed to injury and Barcelona lost 2-1 at Sevilla to slip into fourth. The Europa League winners are no slouches it must be said, and Celta have been a revelation too so far, riding as high as second behind league leaders Villareal.
In the Champions League, Barça have been scarcely more impressive. They were held 1-1 away to Roma before two late goals saved their bacon at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
So what has changed this season …