BARCELONA - Although Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double, they will finish the season racked with regret after a shock 5-4 loss to Levante on Sunday ended their chance of an unbeaten La Liga campaign.
That followed their Champions League capitulation in Rome, leaving a bitter taste despite the satisfaction of wresting the Spanish title back from Real Madrid and trouncing Sevilla in the King's Cup final.
"I feel very angry but I have to look forwards, because what makes me angry isn't going to give me solutions," said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who rested his talisman Lionel Messi for the Levante game.
"We've played games without Messi before and come through them."
Barcelona had last tasted league defeat 13 months ago against Malaga, going 43 games unbeaten, but they failed in the 37th match of this season to tarnish an otherwise flawless domestic campaign.
Before the 3-0 quarter-final second-leg defeat by AS Roma there was a genuine belief Barca could win the treble, and after licking their wounds following that disappointment the focus was switched to finishing the season unbeaten.
"We're all annoyed to lose. It's come in the 37th game, so it hurts to lose it now, but it could have come in the first, third or 14th game," Valverde said.
Midfielder Sergio Busquets was trying to remain positive.
"It's a shame to lose (the unbeaten season), but don't forget that we've won the league," Busquets said.
"It's been an incredible season and, if you look beyond this one game, I think we can be proud."
Spanish media was not as kind.
"The second fiasco of Barcelona's season," ran a headline in Marca.
"Barca arrived too late to rescue their record," lamented Diario Sport.
(Editing by Ed Osmond) ((mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org;))