February 12, 2018 / 5:09 AM / 8 days ago

Soccer: Barcelona confident despite lead slipping to seven points

BARCELONA (Reuters) - After Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 3-0 in La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu in December, it looked like nobody could stop them on their charge to the title.

The Catalans are still unbeaten in the league this season but after consecutive draws against Espanyol last weekend and Getafe on Sunday, their stranglehold on the title has slipped.

Atletico Madrid beat Malaga 1-0 on Saturday to cut down Barcelona’s lead and after Ernesto Valverde’s side failed to find the breakthrough in the 0-0 draw against Getafe, only seven points divides the top two.

Atletico have the chance to cut that down further when they head to the Nou Camp on March 4, in a game that will likely be decisive in the title race.

With testing ties against Chelsea in the Champions League last-16 to come, as well as the King’s Cup final, Barcelona’s schedule is tricky to manage.

Against Getafe they were reduced to pairing new signing Yerry Mina alongside left back Lucas Digne in the centre of defence, although the duo did well to keep the visitors at bay.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona vs Getafe - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - February 11, 2018 Getafe’s Vicente Guaita makes a save from Barcelona’s Lionel Messi REUTERS/Albert Gea

However, the message from Barcelona is that they are not panicking.

“These are the busy months of the season and we’re obliged to do well in all three competitions,” said captain Andres Iniesta.

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“There’s wear and tear and you always try to make sure these things like today don’t happen, but at the end of the day they do happen.”

Barcelona have a rare midweek off before a tricky away fixture on Saturday at in-form Eibar, who rose to seventh in the table after a win at Leganes, while Atletico Madrid face FC Copenhagen away in the Europa League on Thursday and then host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The club’s director of institutional relations, Guillermo Amor, says Barcelona are comfortable with their seven-point cushion.

“Seven points is a good gap and Atletico have to come here to play us. There’s a lot of points to go and we have to be positive,” said Amor.

“We did enough to win but we have to recall that Getafe played well too. They played with determination, worked well and created danger on the counter. For that we have to congratulate Getafe.”

Editing by Christian Radnedge

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