Despite fielding three forwards worth a combined 300 million euros ($330.66 million) plus six-times world player of the year Lionel Messi, Barca seriously lacked inspiration in attack and it took a late, freak goal from Arturo Vidal to earn them the three points.
“I recognise it was a tough game with few bright moments but you have to win matches like this in any way you can,” said Valverde, while defender Gerard Pique conceded: “It’s not normal we are finding it so hard to win away from home.”
Performances have long been valued as much as results at Barca and there was little room for celebration in the media: newspaper Sport talked of ‘A concerning victory’ while Mundo Deportivo described the display as ‘grey’ and ‘lacklustre’.
Real Sociedad’s game at Real Madrid offered Martin Odegaard a chance to make a triumphant return to the Bernabeu after reinventing himself on loan at the Basque side, having had a sour spell at Madrid when he signed for them aged 16.
But the upstart Norwegian was upstaged by another blond midfielder as Luka Modric propelled Madrid to a 3-1 win and served up a reminder of why he broke Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's decade-long grip on the Ballon d'Or last year.
The 34-year-old Croatian has had an underwhelming last 12 months but he put on a vintage display, dictating Real’s play throughout as well as setting up Karim Benzema’s equaliser with a perfect cross before adding the third goal himself.
Sevilla leapfrogged Atletico Madrid into third in the table with a dour 1-0 win at Real Valladolid thanks to two timely interventions from the video assistant referee (VAR), showing a knack of winning ugly which Atletico used to be renowned for.
Will they be able to maintain their place as Spain’s third force or are Sevilla here to stay?
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge