Guardiola at today's training session / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Guardiola during the press conference / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Josep Guardiola is very aware that to maintain Barça’s Liga title hopes alive, seeing that Real Madrid currently hold a five point advantage at the top of the table, the team must allow as few points as possible to slip away. Furthermore, the team must try to improve their results away from the Camp Nou. “We know that in the Liga we are behind a rival that doesn’t lose points and we cannot allow any more to slip away. If we don’t want their advantage to grow at the top, we cannot lose more points,” Guardiola explained. He issued a reminder that “we still have the second half of the Liga” and reiterated the importance of maintaining the form showed in the Cup game against Real Madrid. In reference to how his men performed at the Bernabéu, Guardiola said that “we must make it the norm so that we can have options of winning the title at the end of the season."

The first step towards the title is Sunday’s match against Málaga at La Rosaleda. The manager is clear that “the teams managed by Pellegrini always play well.” He adds: Málaga is a very solid team, with a manager and footballers that have a lot of experience. Their left and right backs play very deep, their wingers know how to play and their strikers look for spaces. In general, they are quality players.” Guardiola said that in order to cut into Real Madrid’s lead, his team must “run a bit more, and attack and defend a bit more.”

January, a complicated month

The Barça manager qualified January as the “most difficult month of the year,” saying that: “you come back from vacation, the climate ... the demand, in every sense, is very high. There isn’t time to think about what happened two or three days ago, you just have to move forward to see where you end up. It’s a month that wears you down because you’re either in or out of the final of an important competition like the King’s Cup.”

Finally, Guardiola, who didn’t want to get too wrapped up in Pepe’s apology or Mourinho’s comments on Sergio Busquets, said, “I don’t respond to what is said in press conferences held by my colleagues.” He also was very pleased with Pedro’s medical all-clear: “it’s great news. We’re talking about a player that I have a lot of affection for, he gives the team a lot of things”

Puyol's performance

When asked about Puyol’s form this season and when he thinks the Barça captain will retire, Guardiola said: “We missed him a lot lat year. He’s a very important player for us, he has a lot of experience, he’s unique, he’s our captain ... He’s very respected, he gave the Champions League trophy to Abidal so he could lift it. That says it all. Retire? It depends on him, he says he’ll continue playing until he’s 40. Seeing how he takes care of himself, how he lives out his profession, he’ll continue until his body tells him to stop.”

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