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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Barcelona and Real Madrid are not in crisis but shock losses are a reality check

The top two in La Liga both lost on Wednesday, the first time the duo had been defeated on the same day since January 2015

It was a miserable night for Lionel Messi and Barcelona against Leganes on Wednesday. Getty Images
It was a miserable night for Lionel Messi and Barcelona against Leganes on Wednesday. Getty Images

The La Liga table after six games should avert thoughts of a crisis. Barcelona and Real Madrid are first and second with 13 points from six games, though Alaves could join them on the same points if they were victorious in Thursday's late game.

Atletico Madrid, as usual, are third and Sevilla are fourth. Why a crisis then? Both Barca and Madrid lost on Wednesday evening. You have to go back to January 2015 to find when the pair last lost on the same day and another four years before that.

Even the best football teams lose matches, but it was still a big surprise to see Madrid comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Sevilla and Barca 2-1 away by a Leganes side who were winless and bottom of the league before the match.

Leganes were a superb Philippe Coutinho strike down before Nabil El Zhar, once of Liverpool, equalised after 52 minutes.

Oscar Rodriguez Arnaiz, a 20-year-old midfielder on loan from Real Madrid, scored 68 seconds later. Rodriguez had never started a top-flight game before Wednesday night and had only played 27 minutes of La Liga football.

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Barça’s central defence looked shaky with Thomas Vermaelen singled out for criticism by the Catalan press. Barca have now conceded seven goals in six games, with Madrid six in six.

Barca had been unbeaten in their previous 13 games away to teams from Madrid and won all four of the previous meetings between the two clubs, winning 5-1 and 3-0 away. Both records have gone.

Victors Seville and Leganes were credited by the normally Barca and Madrid-obsessed media. ‘Gigantes’ read the headline of Marca – a double-headed compliment for Leganes and Sevilla.

Both giants losing cushioned the blow for the other and allowed them to be more magnanimous and offer praise to the victors – though the mood was less measured in Catalonia with a ‘Bad Barça, Worse Madrid’ headline in Mundo Deportivo.

Concerns still remain. Madrid, without Ronaldo, looked like a team without a soul against the first very good side they have met in the league this season.

Real Madrid's Mariano sums up the feelings of his side in their 3-0 loss to Sevilla. AP Photo
Real Madrid's Mariano sums up the feelings of his side in their 3-0 loss to Sevilla. AP Photo

Sevilla away is tough for anyone and defeats there are not rare for the top teams. Madrid have lost more away games (11) there so far this century than against any other.

Madrid were 3-0 down at half-time for the first time since a 2003 visit to the same stadium, when they lost 4-0 against Sevilla.

On Wednesday night, Sevilla’s three goals mean they’ve now scored 14 goals in six days. Boss Pablo Machin also orchestrated Girona’s win against Madrid a year ago.

Zinedine Zidane’s side did not recover to win the league, but they retained the Uefa Champions League.

Madrid look anaemic under new boss Julen Lopetegui against the better teams. They lost the European Super Cup against Atletico in August, were held in Bilbao and hammered in Seville.

Madrid started the season scoring 10 goals in their first three league matches, but they have managed only two in their last three. They did, however, look comfortable in Europe last week, beating Roma 3-0.

Madrid better get their act together soon since they play Atletico Madrid at home on Saturday. Barca are at home to Athletic Bilbao on the same day in a league fixture at Camp Nou they have won the past 14 seasons.

They have been winning, but unconvincingly, with their defence patently unsteady.

More is expected from their new signings Malcom, Arthur and Arturo Vidal, too, while fellow new arrival Clement Lenglet was sent off in his first game.

Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez and Samuel Umtitti have struggled to get back to form after the World Cup finals.

Unlike Lopetegui, at least they got to be involved in those finals.

Having both been given a fright on Wednesday both need to win before any real pressure kicks in.

There is no shorter fuse of patience than at the most two successful clubs in world football so far this century and there are plenty of problems which need fixing fast.