Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova insists Real Madrid’s title hopes will not die in the event of defeat in the Madrid derby.
The Merengues host Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu shortly after Barca take on Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou tomorrow night.
If Atleti win Jose Mourinho’s side will be 14 points behind Vilanova’s with only 14 games played.
“Whether they were 14 or 16 points behind they would not be dead,” stated the former assistant to Pep Guardiola in a media briefing. “Many games remain and maybe tomorrow the gap will be eight points.
“I don’t think of these things and neither do the players. We prefer to think of winning matches, the distance to our rival is not the problem.”
Even with so much riding on it Vilanova will not be tuning into the derby, or so he claims.
“I have to attend my media conference and then have some supper. I have no intention of seeing it or following it.”
The 44-year-old was asked about the Ballon d’Or, with his players Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta having been announced as the final three competitors and his former colleague Guardiola in the running for the Coach category.
“What I hope is that one of the two wins. It depends on the votes but whoever wins it will be fair.
“The three [Coaches] vying for the trophy have done very well, the nomination is complex.”
Vilanova then discussed opponents Athletic Bilbao and their troubled striker Fernando Llorente.
“They’re playing the same way. My players know that Marcelo Bielsa’s teams exert much pressure and we’ll need to work. They’ve lost key players like Javi Martinez but that does not make them less dangerous.
“The quality Llorente has is important, but he’s had contractual problems. He has the ability to play for any big team in Europe.”
The tactician, who revealed the Catalan club will not delve into the January transfer market, ended with words on the mooted return of defender Eric Abidal, and the possibility of resting Messi.
“It is a different case from other injuries. His healthcare is evolving. We are very happy with him, he has been with us for a few days now, doing exercises with the medical staff.
“I thought it would be convenient to rest Messi. But he could play to meet the challenge of beating [Gerd] Muller’s record.”