Barcelona on track for new points record
Spanish champions Barcelona are on course to top last season's record haul of 99 points with Pep Guardiola's side already on 49 points from 17 games, three more than at the same stage last time round.
Barcelona maintained their flawless away form with a 4-0 drubbing of Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday and their twelfth consecutive league win means a return of 49 points from a possible 54. Goals from FIFA Ballon d'Or finalists Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta helped a below strength Barcelona - who rested Xavi Hernandez, Sergi Busquets and Dani Alves - dispatch Depor and stay two points ahead of Real at the Spanish first division summit.
"It was a complete game and we are still top of the league," said Iniesta. "Things are going well and that's important. Our challenge is to keep this up for as long as possible and make it through to the final months when we win titles. There is no time to relax."
Iniesta, Xavi and Messi are the three finalists for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or, with the winner to be announced in Zurich later today. "We will see who wins but everyone at Barcelona is proud to have the three finalists at the club," said striker David Villa.
Saturday's game was Barcelona's third outing in seven hectic days and Guardiola's decision to rest first-teamers underlined the strength in depth at Camp Nou as the champions eased past Depor for a perfect ninth win on the road. "When we play like that it is hard to beat us," explained Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. "All the players are important and we showed that we don't drop our level whoever plays. Sixty games in a season is a lot and we have to take a rest."
Praise for Afellay
Guardiola heaped praise on his team and tipped new Dutch signing Ibrahim Afellay, recruited from PSV Eindhoven in the January transfer window, to prosper after coming on as a second half substitute. "Historically Barcelona have struggled to win at the Riazor Stadium (Deportivo's home) so I am happy," Guardiola said.
"All the players have the right to play and I have a lot of confidence in them. The players that came in had a fantastic game. He (Afellay) played the ball well and showed he knows how to play in a team. He will contribute a lot because he is so dynamic."
Real Madrid stayed on Barcelona's heels with a 4-2 comeback win over Villarreal at home on Sunday to move to within two points of the champions and Guardiola anticipates a long title battle. "Real are a great team and they are not going to drop many points," said Guardiola. "To be champions against this Real (Madrid) team we are going to have to get a lot of points."
Barcelona's next match is at home to Real Betis on Wednesday in the first leg of the Kings Cup quarter-final tie and the draw means they could meet Real Madrid in the final.