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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014

Football

No panic for Barcelona, insists Martino
AFP
Madrid, January 20, 2014
First Published: 12:43 IST(20/1/2014)
Last Updated: 12:45 IST(20/1/2014)

Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino believed his side deserved more after they dropped two crucial points in the La Liga title race with a 1-1 draw away to Levante on Sunday.

Lionel Messi made his first league start for the Catalans in over two months.

However, after early goals from Loukas Vydra and Barca's Gerard Pique, even the four-time World Player of the Year couldn't find a way past in-form Levante keeper Keylor Navas as the hosts clung on for a share of the spoils.

Barcelona remain on top of the table as Atletico Madrid were also held 1-1 by Sevilla on Sunday, but both league leaders are now just one point clear of Real Madrid in third.

Martino, though, is sure there will be plenty of surprises to come between now and the end of the season.

"I don't think we should be worried looking to the future," he said.

"There were games at the start of the season when we won and we didn't play very well. Today is completely the opposite. We played very well and the result is a bit negative, but it is not what we deserved.

"We still have 18 games to play and with the games all three teams have still to play there are going to be a lot of surprises.

"I try to be a fair person when we have to speak about something. When we haven't been up to it I am the first one to speak to the players about it, but I don't think that was the case today.

"We leave here sad because we weren't able to win, but I didn't see any regression in the way that we played."

As in Barca's 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao earlier in the campaign, Martino's substitutions came under the spotlight as Cesc Fabregas angrily punched the top of the visiting dugout after being replaced with 17 minutes remaining.

However, the former Arsenal captain said he was more frustrated with how the game had gone than being withdrawn.

"I wasn't annoyed at the change but at the game. I felt fine, we were creating danger and we had chances to win," he told Barca TV.

"Every time we have played here they have played in the same way. Our attitude was good. It was a shame not to have won, but we need to keep going."

Atletico, meanwhile, missed the opportunity to dislodge Barca at the top of the table for the first time since the end of the 2011/12 season.

David Villa had given Atletico the lead early on, but Ivan Rakitic's penalty 17 minutes from time means Diego Simeone's men remain level on points with Barca.

And Simeone shrugged off suggestions the pressure had gotten to his players after seeing Barca drop points earlier in the evening.

"I don't think it affected the game. The match was how we imagined it, we knew it would be settled by fine details and so it proved.

"Both teams were very competitive and waiting on a mistake from their opponents, but we have managed to take a point which allows us to remain in a privileged position."


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