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Cup next as Barca step up treble bid

sports Updated: Jan 05, 2009 09:45 IST

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With one hand already on the domestic championship, Barcelona begin the second stage of their treble bid when they take on Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Kings Cup on Tuesday.

Barcelona came from behind to defeat Real Mallorca 3-1 on Saturday to start 2009 on a high note and sit 11 points clear of Valencia and 12 points ahead of Real Madrid and Sevilla.

Coach Pep Guardiola rested Lionel Messi against Mallorca and the Argentine international is expected to return for the first leg of the cup at Atletico who will be determined to avenge their 6-1 thrashing by Barca back on October 4.

"They are a tough rival and we know it will not be like the league match," explained Messi. "It is a difficult two-legged match but we have the return leg at home which is good."

Barca lost to eventual champions Valencia in the semi-finals last season and are keen to win a trophy they have not lifted since 1998.

Barca are also still in the Champions League where they face Lyon in the last knockout stage with the first leg in France on February 24.

"We have had the first game of the year and the time has now come to start thinking about the cup," explained goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

"We are taking it very seriously. It is a tournament we haven't won for many years. Atletico are hard to beat and it is the little details that make the difference over two legs."

Eidur Gudjohnsen, who seems to have won favour with Guardiola, admitted the capital side will be out for revenge at the Vicente Calderon.

"We have to forget the league game against Atletico Madrid because we'll be against a team looking to make amends," said the Icelandic striker. "But we have to get a good result in Madrid."

Gudjohnsen admitted Barca were far from their best against Mallorca but said the three points was the only thing that mattered. We took some time to get started but it was a very important win," he added.

"After January there is still a lot left to do. But every game we win is one step closer to the title."

Thierry Henry, Yaya Toure and Andres Iniesta were the Barca goalscorers and Spanish international Iniesta was particularly delighted to net in his first appearance since getting injured at the beginning of November.

"I am happy to have played again and helped the team," said Iniesta. "I am very pleased with the way it all went. I got a great reception from the fans and it gives me goose bumps when I remember it."

Guardiola was delighted to have Iniesta back and that his team showed great character to come from behind to win.

"Wins like this are worth more than winning 5-0," declared Guardiola. "Games like this, after the holiday period, are always dangerous. It was hard work but we were patient, kept our discipline and stayed calm.

"We have not won anything yet and it isn't even the halfway point. We just need to carry on."