Barça trio praise resolute Athletic
Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez praised the defensive work of Athletic Bilbao after the Basque outfit succeeded where so many have failed by nullifying Pep Guardiola's prolific side in last night's Copa del Rey first leg. The 23-year-old also conceded after the goalless draw that the Catalan heavyweights will not have it easy in the return leg at San Mames as they look for a place in the quarter-finals.
Barça went into the match at Camp Nou having won their previous ten competitive outings, averaging more than four goals per game in the process. However, they could not find the breakthrough despite dominating possession against a hard-working Athletic outfit.
"They played a great game," Pedro reflected. "They defended very well, very together. "For the strikers we don't like these games because they close up shop at the back. It's a shame not to have got the victory."
Looking ahead to the return at 'La Catedral', which has not been an easy place to get anything from for visiting teams down the years, Pedro said: "They are very strong at home.
"We have to go to San Mames, a difficult ground, and we have to think of getting the victory that will put us through to the next round. We have to go there with a winning mentality and get a good result."
Midfielder Andres Iniesta commented on his club's official website: "We'll go there looking to play a good game while knowing that Athletic are a difficult opponent, especially at their ground.
"We had control of the game but they defended well. When a team tries their hardest to win and doesn't, that's football. We still have all the hope in the world of getting through to the next round."
Right-wingback Dani Alves agreed: "There are days when the ball doesn't want to go in. (But) we still have the same chance of getting through the tie. We will have to make a great effort because it will be difficult there at San Mames."
Despite the draw, Barcelona have plenty of positives to reflect on as they go into the Christmas break. The reigning Spanish champions are unbeaten in 23 matches, of which 19 have been won, while they boast a two-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
"We have finished the year in exceptional form," said Alves. "This result will not take away what we've done up until now. We ask that next year will be just as good."