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Jan 20, 2013

Messi: Barca loss was inevitable

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has played down his side's 3-2 loss at Real Sociedad - their first defeat of the La Liga season - insisting it will provide added motivation for Thursday's Copa del Rey trip to Malaga.

• La Liga: Saturday review
• Blog: Sociedad stun 10-man Barca

Messi opened the scoring for Barcelona in the seventh minute, before Pedro doubled the advantage less than 20 minutes later.

But a Gonzalo Castro brace and Imanol Agirretxe's stoppage time winner sealed the comeback for Sociedad, with Barca dropping three points for the first time this season.

Barca's lead at the La Liga summit could be reduced when Atletico Madrid host Levante on Sunday, although Messi insists the defeat was inevitable and will not hamper the Catalan giants' league and cup campaigns.

"We have to pick ourselves up because we have a Cup match," Messi said. "Losing a game had to come at some point."

Midfielder Xavi echoed Messi's sentiments, acknowledging that Gerard Pique's 56th minute red card halted the visitors' attempts to close out the match.

"Real are always a difficult rival, they pressured us high up the pitch and they got the result," Xavi said. "A third goal [for Barca] would have changed the match, but defeat had to come sooner or later.

"We'll try to get to the next round. We're going to Malaga with the confidence and knowledge that we are capable of doing it."

Second-placed Atletico could bridge the gap at the top to eight points with victory over Levante, but Barca manager Tito Vilanova remains confident of his side's title challenge.

"We have to congratulate them [Sociedad]. Their victory was achieved more because of their effort than because of our mistakes," he said. "I cannot reproach my players. In the first half we controlled the game and we hit the woodwork twice and another chance was saved by Bravo. We played against a team that had only allowed six goals at home."

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