‘Barcelona left to Real’s mercy now’
MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. AFP photoBarcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted his side’s sinking hopes of hanging onto its La Liga crown were at the mercy of bitter rivals Real Madrid following the shock 3-2 defeat at Osasuna on Feb. 11.
The loss left Real with a chance to open up a 10-point gap with a win, before the team was playing against Levante yesterday.
“Win the title? Well, we will try to defend our Champions League crown and then attempt to negotiate each match in La Liga,” said Guardiola on a freezing night in Pamplona.
“We will see what happens. But we are a significant distance behind which I guess will increase on Sunday. The league will be more difficult for us now.
“In the second half tonight we did well on this pitch but we should have done better in the first half. It was hard for us to get into this game but we have to congratulate Osasuna.”
The reigning La Liga and Champions League winners have struggled on their travels this season with just four wins and succumbed to their second defeat.
A double from Dejan Lekic put Osasuna in a commanding position before the break and while Alexis Sanchez reduced the arrears after 50 minutes, a clinical finish from Raul Garcia restored the two-goal cushion.
Substitute Cristian Tello hit Barça’s second and there were chances at either end in the final stages but Osasuna held on.
While Barça struggles, Real continues to roll over its opposition, having won 18 of 21 games.
Guardiola continued to put his faith in youth against Osasuna and left Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas on the bench with possibly its midweek Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen in mind.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, however, feels that the title contest will not be decided imminently.
“February is possibly more difficult for us than Barcelona as we take on Levante, Racing who are improving, Rayo (Vallecano), without doubt the surprise package this season, and then Espanyol, who are fighting for a place in Europe,” he said.