Barca focuses on league after losing Super Cup


MADRID (AP) -Barcelona will be looking to rebound from the first loss of the campaign after perhaps its poorest performance in more than four seasons when it plays winless Valencia in the Spanish league.

Coach Tito Vilanova glossed over Barcelona's bad form in losing the Spanish Super Cup to Madrid on Wednesday, and the Spaniard won't be on the sidelines for the match at the Camp Nou as he is beginning a two-match ban.

Madrid controlled the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, leading 2-0 by the 20th minute after goals by Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo against a Barcelona defense that was without injured pair Dani Alves and Carles Puyol.

It took Barcelona 37 minutes to register its first shot in the 2-1 defeat to lose the Spanish Super Cup on away goals. Looking to wrest the league title back from Madrid, the Catalan club can ill-afford a repeat against Valencia team eager to turn its uneven start around.

"We started flat and we paid the price," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. "Now we have to turn our attention to Sunday. We lost one title but the most important ones remain to be played for."

Barcelona will have to re-organize its backline, with Alves and Puyol in doubt and fullback Adriano likely banned after receiving a red card against Madrid. New addition Alex Song may play after making his debut Wednesday.

Valencia has drawn its first two games, including surrendering a two-goal lead in a 3-3 draw against promoted Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Barcelona, Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano are the only teams to start the championship with two straight victories. Rayo plays Sevilla and Valladolid is at troubled Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Madrid, which had made its worst start in nearly 40 years before its Super Cup victory, plays Granada on Sunday still looking for its first domestic league win and trailing Barcelona by five points.

Coach Jose Mourinho must ensure the team builds off the Super Cup triumph after its loss to Getafe, which spurred the Portuguese to warn of changes. Madrid has signed Luka Modric, who marked his debut with a cameo against Barcelona. Meanwhile, midfielder Esteban Granero is set to be sold.

"We can't afford to fail in the league because Barcelona is very strong," Ronaldo said after scoring his second goal of the season against Barcelona. "This is the attitude that everyone wants to see from us and we're the first to realize that, not only against Barca, but week in, week out."

Madrid's players dismissed speculation of dissent within the dressing room following the loss at Getafe, pointing to Wednesday's performance as proof the squad has unity.

Kaka was left out for the third straight game with the transfer window closing on Friday.

Javi Martinez's transfer from Bilbao to Bayern Munich provides closure to one of the Basque club's offseason transfer dramas. Another one, regarding striker Fernando Llorente's future, will be decided by Sunday's match as the transfer window closes Friday.

The fate of the two Spain internationals has been a distraction to Bilbao's start to the season.

"The truth is this is a resolution we'd all been waiting for. That's how things are and let's see how it turns out for each of us," said Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose team is in last place without a victory and has conceded nine goals in two defeats.

In other third-round matches, it's: Celta Vigo vs. Osasuna; Zaragoza vs. Malaga; Deportivo vs. Getafe; Mallorca vs. Real Sociedad; and Levante vs. Espanyol.

Real Betis' match with Atletico Madrid on Monday could be rescheduled due to the international football break.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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