Alba: Season has been a success
Jordi Alba says this season should be seen as a successful one for Barcelona given how they have easily pulled away from rivals Real Madrid in La Liga.
The 2012-13 campaign has brought Barca runaway success in the league, but crushing disappointment in the Champions League - losing 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the semi-finals - leaving many blaugrana fans unsure whether to be satisfied or not as the season draws to a close.
Asked at Friday's post-training press conference to give his verdict on the Catalan club's campaign, Alba accentuated the positives.
"I would give our season a very high mark," he said. "Maybe in the Champions League semi-finals we were not up to the level, the 4-0 [first leg against Bayern] hurt a lot. The opponent was very strong, they were in a 'state of grace' and we were not at their level. [But] it seems like the league is not being given its due value because we are so many points ahead of Madrid. We are a long way ahead of second place. In the dressing room we are happy with the work done."
Barca, currently eight points clear of second-placed Madrid, will be confirmed as La Liga champions should Los Blancos draw or lose at Espanyol on Saturday night. If Jose Mourinho's side do win at the Cornella El-Prat, Barca can seal the title by beating Atletico Madrid away the following evening.
Alba said he was not too concerned what happened in Madrid's game, as Barca's focus was on the match at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
"If we beat Atletico, we will be champions no matter what Real Madrid do," he said. "We are focused on ourselves. Atletico are a great opponent. It is an attractive game and we will try to win it."
Catalan-born Alba spent seven years at Barca's La Masia youth system, but came to senior prominence at Valencia, before returning to the Camp Nou for €14 million last summer.
The left-back said he was looking forward to securing his first club medal, but revealed being booked in the first leg against Bayern for throwing a ball in frustration into Arjen Robben's face had been a low point of his season.
"This will be my first trophy at club level," Alba said. "I am very much looking forward to being La Liga champion. The yellow card in Munich made me reflect and could be a low point. There are things you do without thinking. With time we all improve."
Recently absent defenders Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano both trained with their team-mates on Friday morning, and could return from their respective injury problems on Sunday. Winger Pedro Rodriguez received the medical all-clear on Thursday and looks likely to play at least some part in the Atletico clash, as does goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who has recovered from a foot problem.