Tito Vilanova has admitted that Barcelona are not quite at 100 per cent and face a challenge this weekend in travelling away to Sevilla.
The Camp Nou side have won all five League games played this term, for a 100 per cent start to the season, but according to their Coach, it has not been achieved with a 100 per cent level of football.
“There have been games where we have been at a high level and others that our start has cost us in,” admitted the 42-year-old at today’s Press conference.
“As we go through the season we will be looking to develop a further rhythm. We are currently not playing at 100 per cent.
“But I do think we are physically stronger than we have been in the past because these are virtually the same players.”
Even if that is the belief, Vilanova does have a list of absentees for the weekend trip to Sevilla, only naming an 18-man squad to travel and notably still without five defenders.
“It always affects you when numbers are this low, but for a club like this, with so many games, we are used to it. Some will recover for Lisbon and others for the Clasico, but we will have to wait.
“When the injuries are concentrated on a certain position in the field then it does further complicate matters, but I saw [Alex] Song do very well the other day at centre-back.”
The Catalans have won just three times from their last nine visits to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, something that has the Coach more than aware of what awaits his side this weekend against Michel’s team.
“All games are tough but it is true that the Pizjuan is not an easy ground to go to. I spent there the worst 15 minutes of my life [with Barca in 2009-10].
“We were 3-0 up, then it was 3-2 and they could have drawn against us even though they had 10 men.
“Sevilla are in great shape, they have conceded the fewest goals in the League [alongside Malaga with two] and it will not be easy.
“It will be a difficult game, [Jesus ]Navas has found a good addition in Cicinho, whilst [Alvaro] Negredo looks alert. We must be careful with set pieces and dead-ball situations.
“What matters most, though, is the ability to score fast, not if you are playing at home or away. That is crucial. Doing so opens the other team up.
“Sevilla scored fast against Real Madrid and that conditioned the game, but that defeat was not necessary to alert us to the difficulties of the Pizjuan.
“There is still a long way to go in all the competitions, but it is true that this is an important week. Yet, it is also useless to win now if we then lose later on.
“The Champions League game [away to Benfica on Tuesday] is the most important because that is in a shorter competition.”
Vilanova also commented again on controversies this week surrounding Jordi Alba, Lionel Messi and David Villa.
The latter duo were caught on camera during last weekend’s win over Granada arguing, whilst the former faced criticism for needing a longer recovery period from flu for allegedly playing for Spain in September when already ill with flu.
“I just mentioned that he had taken antibiotics two days before playing and you turn that into [Alba] playing with a fever. This is a dead issue.
“Villa-Messi? This is a part of football. Nothing happened that was not normal.”
Vilanova also didn’t take too kindly to being asked if Messi was involved now in the decision making at the club.
“When you have a player like Messi then you try to make him feel comfortable, but decisions on the surrounding environment are not conditioned into that.
“The intent is to have Messi feeling good and that he can find the space. Not all the directions are from him.”
The tactician was asked about the Andalucians’ chances of entering the title race, and those of Atletico Madrid, who currently sit in second spot in the table.
“It’s too early to say. Over time there will be the impact of injuries and of the presence in more than one competition. We will have to see how these teams hold up playing two or three competitions at a time.
“If they are eliminated early then perhaps these teams can centre on the League, then they may move forward.”