With a tense 1-1 draw against rival Espanyol on Saturday, Barcelona lost ground to Real Madrid at the top of La Liga in the fight for the Spanish championship.
The rival Spanish powerhouses have 38 points each after 15 games, nine more than Real Sociedad in third place after that team’s 2-0 victory over Osasuna later on Saturday.
After Marcos Alonso’s goal and Joselu’s penalty, Xavi’s Barcelona gave lost the two-point lead they had built up before the World Cup break.
Jordi Alba and Vinicius Souza’s red cards caused both teams to finish with 10 players, and referee Mateu Lahoz allowed the game at Camp Nou to get out of hand.
“The draw is our fault, we can talk about the referee and other things but they are our mistakes,” said Xavi.
“I think Mateu is a referee who controls games but today it got away from him in my opinion, he let the game get totally out of control.”
“(But) I don’t blame him for anything, the fault is ours. We lowered our intensity.”
Before the first kick of the ball was made, the sides were at odds because Barcelona started Robert Lewandowski, who had been suspended before a last-minute court decision enabled him to participate.
The forward, who was scheduled to miss three league games, was only able to play because of a contentious decision made on Friday, which suspended his sentence.
The president and directors of Espanyol boycotted the game in protest, and Barca coach Xavi acknowledged that his club had been preparing all week for the possibility of playing without the division’s leading scorer.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Spanish Football Federation claimed they were powerless to overturn the judge’s ruling.