Barca's title bid suffers surprise setback

Barcelona’s bid for a 5th La Liga title suffers setback as they lose 0-1 at Real Valladolid.

Barcelona defender Dani Alves celebrates his 90th-minute goal against Manchester City in the first legs of their Champions League last 16 ties on 18 February 2014. Picture: Facebook.

MADRID - Barcelona's bid for a fifth La Liga title in six years suffered a surprise setback when they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Real Valladolid on Saturday which opened the door for Real Madrid to pull away at the top.

It was one of Barca's worst performances of the season, particularly during an atrocious first half when Juventus cast-off Fausto Rossi scored for the home side, and raised serious doubts about their form ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Manchester City.

Real, who host Barca in the "Clasico" in two weeks, can stretch their lead over their arch-rivals to four points with a win at home to Levante on Sunday.

Barca slipped to third and Atletico Madrid climbed into provisional first place thanks to a 2-0 win at Celta Vigo when former Barca forward David Villa struck twice in two minutes to improve his chances of making Spain's World Cup squad.

Real and Atletico each have 64 points, with the latter top due to a superior head-to-head record over their city neighbours, and Barca are on 63.

Valladolid climbed out of the relegation zone into 17th.

Most of the Barca players were in international action in midweek and many looked jaded and short of inspiration in a lethargic display at Valladolid's Jose Zorrilla stadium marked by uncharacteristic sloppiness.

"We failed to create going forward, in our passing and in our mobility and that's why we did not get the desired result," Coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.

"We are finding it hard to put together a complete game in every aspect of play, a perfect game," added the Argentine, who is in his first term in charge after taking over from the ailing Tito Vilanova.

"We are obliged to fight for the league until the end and that's what we will do as long as we have a chance.

"Right now we are not on top form and we have to get there to be able to take on a team like Real Madrid. We have 15 days to do it."

The first genuine chance of the match fell to Lionel Messi when he sprinted into space on the left in the 10th minute.

It was the kind of opening the four-times World Player of the Year normally converts with a minimum of fuss but his rising shot was straight at Diego Marino and the home goalkeeper palmed the ball to safety.