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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 12 hours ago
Read
Dec 17, 2012

Vilanova not getting complacent

Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova was careful not to get too carried away after Sunday's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou left them in complete control of this season's La Liga title race.

• Blog: Barca take off
• Barca create clear path to title

After Radamel Falcao had momentarily stunned the stadium with a superb opener for Atletico, Barca hit back through Adriano Correia, Sergio Busquets and a brace from Lionel Messi - a result which, coupled with Real Madrid's 2-2 draw at home to Espanyol just hours earlier, looks to have already sealed the title for Vilanova's side.

Having taken 46 points from the first 48 available, Barca are now nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico, with Real already a mammoth 13 points off the pace in third.

Despite such a lead, the Catalan coach was only willing to concede after the game that Barca would finish the first round of 19 games atop the table and claim the ceremonial Spanish 'winter champions' crown.

"I do not look too far ahead normally, I focus on the short term, the next game," Vilanova said. "We have the possibility to be 'winter champions', but that does not give us any trophy."

When told that Atletico manager Diego Simeone had called La Liga "boring" as Barcelona were so far ahead of the opposition, Vilanova pointed out that his side had struggled in various games so far this season.

"It is true we have a lot of points, but many games we have won right at the end, having suffered at times during the games," he said. "I do not feel we have been picking up points easily, we could have dropped more. The league does not seem easy to me, just the opposite.

"Atletico are only nine points behind, and they showed in the first half how well they can play. The first 30 minutes were more due to their merits than our faults. Adriano lifted us and from then on we dominated. But they showed that all the points they have taken is not from luck."

Barca's players also queued up after the game to play down talk of the title race already being over. Busquets, who showed composure when scoring his side's second just before half-time, said he was only thinking about the side's last game of 2012, at Real Valladolid on Saturday.

"It is a very good lead, but there is a lot of Liga left," he said. "We cannot rule out Atletico or Real Madrid. There is no way we should allow this lead to slip, we can only focus on the match against Valladolid. Then we can go to the Christmas break with a certain degree of tranquility."

Xavi Hernandez also urged his team-mates not to assume that the title was already won.

"We are the leaders and we know that we have a big advantage," he said. "We are in a good situation, but this is not over yet. We cannot allow ourselves to relax."

While Gerard Pique, who completed his 200th senior game in a Barca shirt on Sunday, admitted only a bad slip-up by Barca could now deny them the title.

"We can only lose this ourselves," he said. "We have a very favourable situation and the luxury of being able to lose a game."

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