Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola insists the La Liga title race is not over after his side drew 1-1 with Real Madrid on Saturday.Guardiola’s comments come despite Barca being eight points clear of their nearest title rivals Real with just six games to play.
Lionel Messi put the Catalan giants in front from the penalty spot early in the second half after Raul Albiol was sent off for fouling David Villa, but Cristiano Ronaldo levelled proceedings eight minutes from time with a penalty of his own.
“We are not the champions yet,” Guardiola said. “We are only eight points clear and there are still six games left.”
Guardiola praised Jose Mourinho’s decision to play Pepe in midfield, with the Portuguese player having a vital impact in a crowded midfield that stopped Barcelona’s fluent style of play.
“We expected something like this,” he said. “Pepe is a strong player, very experienced and has been very difficult (to beat).”
“Seeing his qualities, we knew that he was going to play well so it didn’t come as a surprise to us.”
Guardiola also reassured Barcelona fans that Carles Puyol’s injury was not a recurrence of the knee injury that sidelined him for three months earlier this season.
“It’s just a hamstring injury. He made a great effort tonight,” Guardiola said.
“I think it’s a small pull due to inactivity, the grass and the tension. We will need to assess it before the Copa Del Rey final.”
Guardiola insisted he did not see the two contentious refereeing decisions of the match, but Mourinho certainly did, expressing his disappointment with the standard of officiating after the match.
Mourinho believes Albiol was harshly sent off and felt the same punishment should have been given to Dani Alves for his foul on Marcelo which led to Ronaldo’s equaliser.
“In the first half, the two teams were equal,” Mourinho said.
“We played compact and kept our shape throughout. A win is a win and a draw is a draw but we will take the positives from this game.”
“What we want is to have equal decisions for both teams. The rules are the same and I am tired of playing matches with 10 men. Raul Albiol will miss the cup final for a foul that was nothing.”
“The referee’s approach changed with the decision not to send off Daniel Alves. For once I would like to play against a 10-man Barcelona.”