Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman acknowledged that after losing more points at home to Eibar on Tuesday, the road to regaining La Liga looks “very difficult” for his charges.
At Camp Nou, the Catalans were held to a 1-1 draw and remain in the sixth position, seven points short of Real and Atletico Madrid’s joint leaders.
Indeed, after Martin Braithwaite had missed from the punishment spot, it could have been an even worse end to a forgettable 2020 for Barca had Ousmane Dembele not swooped to equalize after Kike Garcia’s opener.
Just seven of their opening 15 league games were won by Koeman’s charges, their worst start since 2003; and the coach admits that the championship is already fading on the horizon.
The Dutchman told reporters after the final whistle, “I am realistic, it will be very difficult to be champions,”
“Nothing is impossible, but you have to acknowledge the gap. Atletico looks very good to me, very strong, they don’t concede many goals.”
Without Lionel Messi, who watched from the stands as his team-mates toiled, Tuesday’s setback took place.
“You cannot say Barca plays better without Messi. He is a different player,” Koeman acknowledged, maintaining that all three points against the Basques should have been taken by his side.
We played well in general terms. But individual mistakes cost us the points. We’ve deserved a victory, and we did what was necessary. [Eibar] had just one shot on target. We’ve produced opportunities, but we haven’t scored a penalty and then a defensive mistake… we’ve played well, we’ve worked hard and we’ve done enough to win, but this happens too much for us.”