Pique: We will be there at season’s end
Despite Real Madrid’s seven-point lead in La Liga, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says that the title race is not over and they will fight to the end and make it as difficult as possible for their bitter rivals.
While the Catalan side have come out on top when they have faced Real so far this season – beating them in the league and knocking them out of the Spanish Cup – their stuttering away form has seen them fall behind in the league.
They cannot afford another slip-up this weekend in Pamplona against Osasuna while they will be hoping that fourth-placed Levante can do them a favour when they play the leaders at the Bernabeu.
The dropped points have been blamed on many reasons from a small squad and injuries through to a lack of desire but the fact is that they have won only four of ten matches on their travels.
At the same time Real continue to roll over their opposition having won 18 of 21 games and scored 71 goals in the process, ten more than Barcelona, the side widely admired over recent years for their attacking football.
There is a lot of work ahead of us in the next two months but we are still alive and you can count on us being there at the end of the season.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique
“I would have signed for where we are at the moment at the start of the season. We are very much alive in the league, in the Champions League and we are in the final of the cup,” said Pique, with Barcelona’s midweek win over Valencia setting them up for a repeat of the 2009 King’s Cup final against Athletic Bilbao.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us in the next two months but we are still alive and you can count on us being there at the end of the season.
“We will give everything in the league, it will be the others who will have to win it and it is going to be a long battle. We will put them under pressure, there are a lot of games including one at the Nou Camp.”
Real maintain focus
The Real players are concentrating on maintaining their own level and are not being distracted by their lead, according to midfielder Xabi Alonso.
“We will focus on our game and not on the points difference with Barcelona. We will not change our style of football and we are not obsessed by the advantage,” he said.
Valencia are five points clear in third place and play Sporting Gijon with the battle below them becoming increasingly fierce.
Espanyol are level with Levante after they snatched an injury time equaliser to draw 3-3 with Athletic Bilbao last weekend, and face bottom side Zaragoza, while the Basques, two points behind, are away to Real Betis.
Atletico Madrid look a far stronger proposition since the appointment of coach Diego Simeone and are still unbeaten since the start of the year.
The Argentine has made the team a lot more solid at the back and they will look to continue their good run against Racing Santander who have slipped into the relegation zone.
The pressure is on Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini with the big-spending Andalusian side having won just once in nine games and he will be hoping for an improvement against Mallorca.
Jose Miguel Gonzalez makes his debut as Sevilla coach against Real Sociedad, after last weekend’s defeat by Villarreal proved the final nail in the coffin for Marcelino Garcia.
Villarreal are in action against Granada while Rayo Vallecano take on Getafe.