Lionel Messi has again made clear that despite Barcelona’s dominant position in the League, they cannot write off Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
At the midway point in the League season, Barca are 18 points clear of traditional title rivals and defending champions Madrid and 11 points clear of second place Atletico.
However, in talking to FIFA’s official website, 25-year-old Messi has made clear that complacency is not sinking in.
“We’re very aware that there’s a long way to go yet. Our La Liga hopes are in our hands thanks to the lead we’ve got and the way we’ve gone about things, but we can’t afford to relax,” he reflected in the interview published today.
“We know how good Atletico Madrid are, as we’ve played them already and they’re a great side. And you can never write Real Madrid off because they’ll fight till the end and they’ve clawed back big points’ deficits on us more than once.
“We’re not taking our foot off the gas, though we’re confident we won’t have problems staying on the same track.”
Last summer saw Tito Vilanova replace Pep Guardiola as Coach.
“Are they different? Yes, of course. The way we work and prepare for games is the same, but what’s changed is that Guardiola and Tito have different personalities and different ways of handling the squad.
“They’ve each got their own ideas and own style, but when it comes to playing and training we’re doing the same things we’ve been doing these past four years.”
The calendar year has seen teammate Eric Abidal have to undergo a liver transplant as part of his recovery from a tumour found on that organ, and Coach Vilanova have to undergo further surgery and treatment after his cancer relapsed in December.
“To be honest, they hit us hard. It seemed like it was one thing after another, and they’re things that count much more than results or form. They’re really awful situations.
“Of course we were hit hard, but we somehow managed to get through all of that by sticking together throughout. And thank God things began looking up for both Abidal and Tito.
“Though he (Vilanova) has still got to keep up his treatment, all the signs are good. That’s what matters most.”