It's a hard blow – Pique rues Barca's missed opportunity to rein in leaders Atleti

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Gerard Pique accepted it will be "difficult" for Barcelona to rein in Atletico Madrid at LaLiga's summit after Cadiz snatched a late 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Atleti's surprise home defeat to Levante a day earlier had given Ronald Koeman's side the chance to move six points behind Diego Simeone's league leaders.

They appeared to be on course to do just that after Lionel Messi marked a club-record 506th league appearance with a 32nd-minute penalty.

Alex Fernandez sealed a dramatic point for the visitors in the 89th minute, though, slamming home from the spot after Clement Lenglet was ruled to have clipped Ruben Sobrino.

The result ended Barca's seven-game winning streak in LaLiga and left them with 47 points after 23 games this season – their lowest tally at this stage of the season since the 2006-07 campaign when they amassed 46 points.

While Pique acknowledged it will not be easy to challenge Atleti for the title, he insisted they will not give up.

"It hurts a lot because Atletico's defeat gave us a chance," he told the club's official TV channel.

"Losing two points is difficult to take. Every game that you do not win, your options are reduced a little. There is an important distance [between Barca and Atleti], not unassailable, but it will depend on the next games. If we get good results, we will have options.

"It's difficult, obviously. We have to try. It's a hard blow. On Wednesday, we have another test against Elche.

"We have to recover our game and feelings because, if not, we could lose more games. We need to raise our heads, improve mentally and win against Elche."

Following the visit of Elche, Barca travel to Sevilla on Saturday.

Related items

  • Real Betis v Sevilla game to resume behind closed doors on Sunday, RFEF confirms Real Betis v Sevilla game to resume behind closed doors on Sunday, RFEF confirms

    The Copa del Rey clash between Real Betis and Sevilla will resume behind closed doors on Sunday, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

    Saturday's Seville derby at Estadio Benito Villamarin was suspended due to crowd trouble, with Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan hit by an object from the stands.

    The incident occurred when the visitors' players were celebrating Nabil Fekir's 39th-minute equaliser that cancelled out Papu Gomez's opener in the last-16 tie.

    Jordan was attended by physios after being struck by a projectile from the crowd that appeared to hit him on the head.

    Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea led the players off the pitch after protestations from Sevilla and their head coach Julen Lopetegui.

    The RFEF has announced the final stages of the first half and the entire second half will be played on Sunday, but no supporters will be present inside the ground.

    Jordan will play no part as the 27-year-old must stay at home under observation for at least 24 hours.

    Sevilla condemned the "unacceptable" actions of Betis' fans in a statement released shortly after the abandonment.

    "Sevilla FC condemns the violent act suffered today by Joan Jordan," the statement read.

    "It was an unacceptable act in the world of sport committed by an individual who does not represent the fans of Real Betis or the way of living football in our city. 

    "Likewise, the club demands the utmost respect for Joan Jordan, a true professional and an exemplary person who has suffered an appalling attack."

    Betis released a statement of their own on Sunday, reading: "Real Betis Balompie strongly condemn the throw of an object to the pitch during the Copa del Rey game.

    "The club has immediately cooperated with the police to identify the alleged perpetrator of said throw.

    "The club will apply the internal regulations with the utmost severity to punish said individual.

    "The intention of Real Betis Balompie has been to resume the game as soon as possible."

    It is the latest incident to mar the Sevilla derby, which is notorious for being one of the most heated rivalries in Spain.

    In 2007, Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was knocked unconscious by a bottle thrown from a Betis fan.

  • Rams' Weddle showing 'great energy' ahead of playoff comeback against Cardinals Rams' Weddle showing 'great energy' ahead of playoff comeback against Cardinals

    Eric Weddle is showing "great energy" after coming out of retirement and is primed to play a part against the Arizona Cardinals, says Sean McVay.

    In a stunning move, six-time Pro Bowler Weddle re-joined the Los Angeles Rams this week for the playoffs, having previously retired after the 2019 season.

    The safety will make his comeback against NFC West rivals the Cardinals on Monday, which will be 750 days since his last NFL appearance.

    The roster move with Weddle came with the Rams having issues in their secondary.

    Jordan Fuller was ruled out for the season due an ankle injury, while free safety Taylor Rapp has not cleared concussion protocol and will miss the game.

    That could lead to significant snaps for the 37-year-old Weddle, who quit two years ago after 13 successful seasons in the league.

    Rams head coach McVay revealed there are a range of outcomes over how involved Weddle will be in his first game back but is convinced the veteran will be ready.

    "He's done a great job," McVay said, per ESPN, when asked about Weddle's progress. "He's brought a great energy. He's a great communicator. He's a great leader. 

    "He'll be ready to go. What exactly that role looks like, we're still working through, but I do know as a competitor when he's out there, if he's going and he gets into the flow, he's gonna want to go.

    "If he's feeling good and there's no risk and we're in a good flow, we'll kind of just take it a snap at a time. 

    "It's hard for me to realistically put a parameter around it because this is something that's never been done before. 

    "It could be 10 [snaps]; it could be 30. I think in a lot of instances too, it depends on what kind of personnel groupings we're presenting to the Cardinals' offense as well.

    "[Rapp] is a big loss. He's doing everything in his power to get back as quickly as possible, but we have got a lot of confidence in Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess as well."

     

    Weddle discussed his return earlier this week, insisting he had kept physically fit in retirement.

    He said: "Even though I haven’t been playing football, I still train like I’m playing football.

    "It [returning] was never even a remote possibility ever over the last year and a half because I was pretty much set in my decision and very happy. 

    "This is by no means me having an itch or anything like that. It was just the opportunity of a lifetime.

    "I just kept coming back to I would regret it if I didn’t come and take this chance to try to help out the guys that I love, a coach that I love and try to help this team out, whatever role that is.

    "It didn't take much persuading. It was kind of just going through the avenues with all the coaches and reaching out to some players.

    "I didn't want to come in and ruffle any feathers or be someone who gets in the way, but once all that was on the same page, it was a no brainer in my mind."

    The Rams are at home for the Wild Card game after edging the Cardinals to win the NFC West.

    Two games between the teams in the regular season were split, with each team winning on the road (37-20 Cardinals in L.A., 30-23 Rams in Arizona).

    Arizona fared well on the road this season, going 8-1, but struggled to a 3-5 record at home.

    Per Stats Perform data, in modern NFL history (since 1933), the only other team to have as many as five more road wins than home victories in a season is the Miami Dolphins, who went 6-2 on the road and 1-7 at home in 2010.

  • Rumour Has It: Real Madrid ready to go all out for Haaland and Mbappe Rumour Has It: Real Madrid ready to go all out for Haaland and Mbappe

    The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

    While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

    And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

     

    TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

    Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

    Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

    However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

    On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

    - CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

    - Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

    - The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

    - PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

    - The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.