Barcelona are in the unusual
position of having drawn their last three matches as they
prepare for Saturday's home La Liga game against Real Sociedad
and Pep Guardiola's unwillingness to commit to a new contract is
not helping settle jangled nerves.
The spectacularly successful 41-year-old coach prefers to
renew his deal with the Spanish and European champions on an
annual basis and as the season has slipped by mutterings about
the possibility of him leaving in June have grown in volume.
Barcelona President Sandro Rosell is desperate to persuade
Guardiola, who has led the Catalan club to 13 trophies since
taking over in 2008, to agree an extension, although he has so
far refrained from putting too much public pressure on the
former Barca and Spain midfielder.
Guardiola waited until February 8 last year before inking a new
deal and went on to capture a third successive La Liga title and
a second Champions League crown, as well as the Spanish and
European Super Cups and the Club World Cup.
"The sooner the better," Rosell told reporters on Tuesday
when quizzed about the issue.
"That would always be a massive boost, it would be great,"
This season, Guardiola faces perhaps his stiffest test from
Real Madrid, who have been honed into a fearsome attacking force
by Portuguese Jose Mourinho, an assistant coach at Barca when
Guardiola was a player.
Real, who play at city rivals Getafe on Saturday, have a
seven-point lead over Barca with just over half the season
played and are fiercely determined to end their arch-rivals'
domestic and European domination.
Having knocked Real out of the King's Cup last week,
Guardiola refuses to give up on the league title, although he
admits Barca are "almost at the point of no return" after
Saturday's 0-0 draw at Villarreal.
They clung on to draw 2-2 with Mourinho's side in their cup
quarter-final second leg, which sent them through 4-3 on
aggregate, and were held to a 1-1 stalemate at Valencia in
Wednesday's cup semi-final first leg.
It was the first time since March 2009 Guardiola's side had
been restricted to three consecutive draws.
"A lot of people believe the league is already lost, but
they will not convince me," he told a news conference on
"Let me believe that we can win again and if we cannot
we'll congratulate our opponents," he added.
"We've done well for a long, long, long time, and you don't
know how hard that is.
"The players must put in the effort to continue. They will
regret it if they don't. We cannot give up yet."
Third-placed Valencia have slipped nine points behind Barca
ahead of their game on Sunday at a resurgent Atletico Madrid,
who appear to have put an erratic campaign behind them since the
appointment of former Argentina captain Diego Simeone as coach
late last year and have climbed to seventh.
Levante, Valencia's city neighbours and the season's
surprise packages, are five points further back in fourth and
host troubled Racing Santander on Saturday.
Espanyol are at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in a
match that pits fifth against sixth, while Sevilla are hoping to
end a poor run when they host Villarreal on Sunday.
Dutch players imprisoned for shocking death
One more season, but then...
Malaga man maintains Manchester/Madrid mania
Maracana applauds deep-lying playmaker
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010