Barcelona defender Gerard Pique insisted the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez was no excuse for the Spanish champions dropping two vital points in a 0-0 draw with nine-man Malaga on Saturday.
Messi was ruled out just hours before kick-off due to illness, whilst the suspended Suarez looked on ruefully from the stands as an insipid Barca failed to find a way past Malaga’s defensive wall and the inspired Carlos Kameni in goal.
“The absences are not an excuse, we are Barca, we have players worth a lot of money. We all have to perform,” Pique told reporters.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t want to go in, but there is nothing we can do but keep going.”
A point means Barca missed the chance to leapfrog Real Madrid at the top of the table ahead of the European champions’ visit to local rivals Atletico Madrid later on Saturday.
Kameni produced an incredible 94th minute save from Neymar after Diego Llorente had been sent-off midway through the second-half.
Juan Carlos also then saw a straight red in the sixth minute of time added on, but Malaga held out for a famous point.
Indeed, they could even have snatched all three had Carlos not hit the side-netting with the goal gaping after rounding Marc-Andre ter Stegen on the hour mark.
However, Barca boss Luis Enrique claimed he could only praise his side for a display in which they were “infinitely better” than the dogged visitors.
“We are one of the teams most used to playing against opponents that put a lot of men behind the ball,” said a visibly frustrated Enrique.
“But that doesn’t mean that we will always overcome it.
“We didn’t get the reward we deserved.”
Enrique played down the importance of Messi’s illness, meaning the five-time World Player of the Year is likely to return along with Suarez for Barca’s Champions League trip to Celtic on Wednesday.
“For him to miss a game he has to be very unwell because normally it is very difficult for that to happen,” added Enrique.
“It is nothing serious. It is something logical and normal at this time of year and he is already recovering.”