Barcelona: Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola conceded the La Liga title to Real Madrid in the wake of the Catalan side’s damaging 2-1 defeat in the clasico at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
Goals from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Jose Mourinho’s men a commanding seven-point lead at the top of the table with just four games remaining in the season, and Guardiola has been quick to offer praise to Madrid, while also commending the efforts of his own squad.
Speaking to the media after the match, he said: "First of all, congratulations to Madrid, for the win and the league title they have confirmed today. I wouldn't change my players for anything. These players have been in this situation and have shown they can get up."
After defeating Barcelona 2-1, Real Madrid are seven points clear the top of the table with four games to go.
Guardiola also felt that his side dealt well with the attacking prowess of Madrid, but conceded that they didn't do enough to win the game. “We controlled Madrid's counter-attacks pretty well, they didn't create a lot of chances, but at the end they did a bit more,” he said.
Asked about his formation, Guardiola said he did not believe Barca had been outplayed and said he had no reason to reproach his team. "They looked for their chances and we opened up the pitch very well," the former Barca and Spain midfielder said. "Our team operates in tight spaces and sometimes it's tough. It's a shame to have failed at a key moment, it leaves a bad taste behind for everyone, but they did not spare any effort. It's never easy playing Madrid, who are very physical."
He also stressed that Barcelona will now turn focus to the Champions League, and the match with Chelsea on Tuesday, saying: "I feel bad for the fans. But the players have been giving everything, for four years already now, so I hope they understand. Now the players should relax a bit, and then focus on Chelsea. We should see if we can get in the right spirit.”
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta also admitted that Saturday's defeat had been soul-destroying, but insisted that the team would bounce back in their midweek Champions League semi-final with Chelsea.
“It hurts our soul to not be able to prolong the La Liga battle a little more, but we have to accept it,” the Spain international told his club's official website. “The La Liga title has practically slipped away. The difference in points is large and there are few [points] left. We knew that it would be difficult, especially knowing that they depend on themselves - but we gave it a go. Our only option was to win and they played with that in mind. With a draw, when it looked as though we were fighting for the win, their quick reply slowed us down.”
Barca need to put their disappointment behind just as quickly to overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit at home against Chelsea. "We have to be prepared and eager for this Tuesday," Iniesta said. "We have to focus on the next competition. A lot is at stake and we cannot falter. It’s a completely different game against Chelsea. What we’re concerned about is getting to the final in Munich and the well-being of the team.”