PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Pep Guardiola is not throwing in the towel in the fight for the league title despite the five-point lead enjoyed by Real Madrid: "People should know that I am convinced that we'll be competing right up to the end. After that, whether we win or not I can't control." However, Guardiola has a lot of faith in his players' ambition: "There are 63 points left to play for – that's a lot of points and my sole objective is to get across to the players that we have to make these 63 points count.  We've got a chance so why shouldn't we go for it?"

La Liga the priority

Right from the beginning of his tenure as first team manager, Guardiola has always asserted that the La Liga is the most important competition. On Saturday, he emphasised this once again: "It's our bread and butter, and it's what keeps you in good shape for the other competitions." That's why he sees this weekend's match against Betis as important preparation for the Cup duel against Real Madrid. But whatever happens in that Cup tie, Guardiola is determined not to be distracted from the league title: "There'll be no time to feel sorry for ourselves. If we don't react well we'll find ourselves out of the race for the league."

Guardiola expecting a good match

Although the Seville based club was only promoted to the 1st Division at the end of last season, Guardiola knows Betis well, having taken them on in last season's Kings Cup.  "They've got the same manager and some skilful players - they're good on the offensive." He also compared the Andalus team's style of play with Barça's last opponent, Osasuna: "They've got more combination play, different ways of moving the ball up field, they can unsettle you, they play for each other and the goalkeeper is very intuitive – and they've won their last three".

Youth the best policy

Pressure on the Barça squad is increasing as Andreu Fontàs and Pedro join Villa and Afellay on the injury list while Keita is away at the Africa cup of Nations and Maxwell has completed a move to French club PSG.  However, Guardiola insists that he's not looking to bring in reinforcements from outside the Club: "We'll stick with these players to the end.  It's not a good idea to look to the transfer market because new players have to settle in and it costs money.  The reserves are the cheapest, most productive and sustainable solution."

Praise for Sergio Busquets

If he gets a run out against Betis, Sergio Busquets will reach a century of league appearances for FC Barcelona.  Guardiola handed Busquets his first team debut in his first season as Barça manager. On Saturday he told us: "If I was reincarnated as a player, I'd like to be like him. He's the best defensive central midfielder in the world. Barça has a priceless player."