Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen: One bad match can cost the title
Marc-Andre ter Stegen is not getting carried away with the excellent start Barcelona have made under new coach Ernesto Valverde and is all too aware that "one bad match" could cost them dearly.
Barca have made their best ever start to a La Liga season, picking up 28 of a possible 30 points and building an eight-point lead over Real Madrid, who lost to Girona at the weekend.
However, last season it was Barca who unexpectedly slipped up, beaten by the likes of Alaves, Malaga and Deportivo La Coruna, and ter Stegen knows there is still a long way to go.
"Barcelona want to be at their best in every match," he said in an interview with WAZ. "One bad match could cost you the league. That's the motivation.
"You have [to have] a good diet, be well-prepared and go to training and want to be at your best. Sometimes it's just about that few percent which can make the difference. Only through that are you able to achieve everything."
Ter Stegen has been in fine form this season, keeping seven clean sheets in 10 league games, and teammate Sergio Busquets said a "large part" of Barca's win over Athletic at the weekend was down to the keeper's heroics.
With Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer injured, he is also the current first choice for Germany's national team after winning the Confederations Cup with his country in the summer.
Despite his good form, though, he is concentrating on taking things one game at a time.
"I only focus on the next step," he said when asked if he was targeting Neuer's place at the World Cup next summer. "The next step is [Barca's] match against Olympiakos [on Tuesday].
"If you start thinking about eventualities, you lose your focus and you can soon forget about it. If you think two steps ahead, you forget what's important in the now. I learned that from coach Lucien Favre at [Borussia Monchengladbach]. He was right about that, too."
Ter Stegen also had words of praise for international teammate Leon Goretzka. The Schalke midfielder is out of contract next summer and has been linked with both Barca and Bayern.
"Whoever ends up getting him, I can only congratulate the club," ter Stegen said. "Maybe he will stay at Schalke."
He added: "I think that he will get even better in the future."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.