Iniesta: League still vital
Fri, 19 Apr 2013 12:43:00
Barcelona take on Levante in the Primera Division on Saturday with one eye firmly fixed on their Champions League semi-final first-leg clash at Bayern Munich next week.
The Catalan club are all but assured of regaining the domestic title they lost to Real Madrid last season as they currently top the standings by 13 points with seven games remaining.
It is, therefore, perhaps understandable that they may already be preparing for the key trip to the Bavarian giants next Tuesday.
But while midfielder Andres Iniesta admits winning a third Champions League trophy in eight years would be special, he insists the league is still their main priority.
"The league is the most important title for me, as it reflects consistency and the work you put in day after day," the Spaniard said.
"The Champions League is very prestigious, but it's a competition which is very tough, special and unique. People do value the league.
"We would all love to be in this position at this point of the season every year.
We've been knocked out of the Copa del Rey, but we're on course to win the league and the Champions League semi-final is just one step from the final in London."
With Bayern, who have already sewn up the Bundesliga title, in mind, Barca may opt to rest several players against Juan Ignacio Martinez's men.
Star man Lionel Messi returned to training yesterday after missing the last two games with a thigh injury and will almost certainly play no part for the league leaders tomorrow.
Midfielder Sergio Busquets may also not be risked as he continues his recovery from a groin complaint, while defenders Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are still sidelined with knee problems.
Even with these likely absentees, Barca will approach their next assignment with plenty of confidence after scoring eight goals in comprehensive wins over Real Mallorca and Real Zaragoza in their last two league outings.
Unsurprisingly, Levante coach Martinez believes a strong defence is the key to his side's chances.
"Barca can make a goal out of nothing. They have a lot of quality. We should be very solid," he said.
Martinez, whose side have conceded nine goals in their last two matches, does not expect his life to be made any easier by the potential absence of Messi, with Barca winning 5-0 against Mallorca and then 3-0 at Zaragoza in their last outing in the Argentinian's absence.
"He may not be playing but he has not played in the last two games and I think they have an 8-0 aggregate," Martinez added.
"We must be bold when we have chance, but we have to be very strong defensively.
"Both Real Madrid and Barcelona are games that you know are going to be difficult. Their statistics are ridiculous, so it's another nice challenge for Saturday."
Midfielder Vicente Iborra will be suspended after picking up a 10th booking of the season in the 4-0 defeat at home to Deportivo La Coruna last week.