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Feb 4, 2013

Alves: Atletico are biggest threat to Barca

Dani Alves has said people should stop talking about Real Madrid as Barcelona's main rivals - because Atletico Madrid are much closer to the Primera Division leaders.

After a weekend during which Barcelona drew 1-1 at Valencia, Madrid lost 1-0 at Granada and Atletico beat Real Betis 1-0 at home, Barca are nine points clear of Atletico, with Madrid a further seven points back in third.

Alves, who drew attention to racist chants from Madrid fans during Barcelona's 1-1 Copa del Rey semi-final first leg draw last week, said Diego Simeone's Atletico deserved to be seen as the main threat to Barca in the title race.

"People talk a lot about Madrid when our rivals are Atletico," he added. "We should not look to the team in third place, because there is a team in second. They are closer and, if we do not pay attention, they could surprise us."

Both Barca and Valencia had chances to win Sunday's game, with returning striker David Villa shooting wide from close range and Barca keeper Victor Valdes making a point-blank stop from Roberto Soldado with two minutes remaining.

Alves said the leaders were pleased to have gained a point, adding: "Given the circumstances of the game, we are leaving happy to have picked up something in a ground like this.

"When you are not at your best, you must be intelligent - if you cannot win, you need to get a point."

Barca assistant coach Jordi Roura, again in charge as Tito Vilanova recovers from his recent operation, also said the draw was an acceptable result after the previous week's efforts against Real.

"We came here with the intention of winning the three points, but it is always difficult to win at Valencia," he said. "I think the draw is more or less fair. We were coming off a very tough match away to Madrid and that, from a physical standpoint, always wears you down."

Roura praised the performance of Ernesto Valverde's side, who worked hard throughout to close down Barca's players and deny them space to build moves.

"Valencia pressure you a lot and they do not let you play," he explained. "Their intensity made it difficult for us to play our game, and it was hard for us to get close to their area.

"Perhaps we did not create a lot of chances, and we were not as fresh as we have been in the past."

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