Lionel Messi denied Barcelona might be suffering a case of the jitters after dropping points for the third successive league game.
The reigning champions came into Saturday’s visit of Athletic Bilbao having been held 2-2 at home by Girona last weekend and surprisingly beaten 2-1 by lowly Leganes in midweek.
And back-to-back league defeats for the first time in two years looked a distinct possibility as Athletic – without a league win at the Nou Camp since 2001 – led through Oscar de Marcos’ first-half volley until six minutes from time.
After Philippe Coutinho and Messi had struck the woodwork, substitute Munir El Haddadi eventually saved Barca’s blushes but it is not the result, or the form, that the Catalan giants would have wanted heading into a daunting run of fixtures.
However, Messi, whose side now face Tottenham, Valencia, Sevilla, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in successive matches, insists they are not feeling under pressure.
“There’s no anxiety. We have to improve on many things but this is just the start and the season is very long,” he said in quotes reported by the Spanish press.
“We’re only upset for the last two results because we didn’t expect it. We had a good first half in Leganes and we lost, today we created enough chances to win and couldn’t do it.
“We’re aware of the fact that we have to be stronger in defence and not concede goals in every game.
“We’re coming off a year where it was difficult to score against us and now we’re conceding too easily.”
Perhaps with one eye on Barca’s unenviable October schedule, which begins with Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Spurs, Messi started Saturday’s match on the bench.
With Barca trailing though, the Argentinian was thrown into action in the 55th minute and he struck the post before playing a key role in Munir’s late leveller.
Luis Suarez said Barca cannot just depend on Messi to continually dig them out of holes, and the club’s all-time record goalscorer added on the same subject: “We have a squad and players to make a great team, a strong side which doesn’t have to depend on anybody.
“Today’s result was a shame but we need to be calm.
“Now we have to think about Wednesday, where we have a very tough game against a very difficult team.”
Barca coach Ernesto Valvede, who has lost Sergi Roberto to injury for the trip to London, said on his club’s website: “We need to fight our way out of this bad run, lift our heads up and keep looking forwards.
“This has been a difficult week. We were hoping to get nine points and we’ve only got two.
“We have another difficult game coming up on Wednesday but we need to take a big step forward in the Champions League.
“The team has a strong sense of responsibility and we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got against Tottenham.”
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