Real Madrid very much in title race, warns Barca coach

Agence France-Presse
Even as Madrid absorbs straight losses, Barcelona coach Martino is not one to underestimate their rivals

EL CLASICO. FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) scores the 2-2 equalizer against Real Madrid defenders during their recent 'El Clasico' match-up. Photo by Juan Carlos Hidalgo/EPA

MADRID, Spain – Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino warned Friday that rivals Real Madrid, third in the La Liga after 3 consecutive defeats, are still very much in the running for the title.

Real lost last Sunday’s El Clasico clash with Barcelona 4-3 before losing again 2-1 on Wednesday to Sevilla.

The Catalans followed up their win with a routine 3-0 victory over Celta Vigo in midweek.

Atletico Madrid led the way with 8 games remaining, a point clear of Barca and 3 ahead of Real.

“This gives the impression that it will go down to the wire, but between these 3 teams, always between the 3,” Martino told a press conference on Friday.

“For us, what has changed is that once again it’s down to ourselves, because we have to play against Atletico Madrid on the final day … It’s an advantage having your fate in your hands, today two teams have: Atletico and Barcelona, but I wouldn’t rule out Real Madrid.”

Before their derby at Espanyol on Saturday, the Argentine coach estimated that the Clasico win over Real Madrid could be “a turning point” for Barcelona who have been very inconsistent this season.

“In principle, it’s a victory that should put us in the right frame of mind,” he said, adding that his group can cope even without goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who suffered a serious cruciate knee injury on Wednesday.

“We all took a knock,” he said. “But this team has faced very difficult situations in recent years and here is one more. As always, the players will surely emerge stronger from this latest setback.” –

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