Barcelona returns to the race for the La Liga title


Gerard Piqué has warned Barcelona’s rivals for the league title that the Catalan side are back in the race after an impressive 2-0 away to Sevilla FC on Saturday.

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Goals from Ousmane Dembélé and Lionel Messi temporarily raised Barça to second place in the standings, two points behind leaders Atlético de Madrid, who have two games in hand and travel to Villarreal on Sunday.

Real Madrid, who face Atlético next weekend, are third, one point behind Barça before Monday’s game against Real Sociedad.

It was a big change for Barça, who were 12 points off the pace and sat seventh in the table after losing to Cádiz in December. Koeman’s team is unbeaten in 15 league games since then and Piqué says they are full of confidence after earning a first win against a team in the top four this season.

“The league is on, of course it is,” Piqué told reporters as Barça chased a third title in four years after losing first place last season to Madrid.

“The teams have come back from worse situations in the past and the team, despite those two games recently [against Paris Saint-Germain and Cadiz] we have done well in 2021. We can be sure.

“Sevilla, in their field, have not fired at us or created a clear opportunity. It is not the ideal situation, of course, but I have faith in the team.”

Piqué was one of the three Barça players who sounded the alarms in the victory at Sánchez Pizjuán when he was withdrawn in the second half due to a blow. He said his change had been previously agreed with coach Ronald Koeman, but Barça will have to wait and see how serious the blows are for Pedri and Ronald Araujo.

Pedri injured his calf muscle and will undergo tests on Sunday, while Araujo was withdrawn as a precaution, shortly after replacing Piqué, after appearing to re-injure his ankle in his first appearance after a three-week break. .

A line-up change helped Barça overtake Sevilla, with Koeman switching to three defenders and using Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba as wingers.

“Above all, we changed the form because we wanted to try to put pressure on Sevilla high, but also playing with three centrals and wings made it easier to stop Sevilla’s game,” said the Barça coach at a press conference.

“It was a risky system. Without the ball, we pressed, we tried to play one on one. We wanted to take advantage of Dembélé’s rhythm and the first goal was an example of that. How we played without the ball was the key and, in general, it was a really complete performance “.

Barça will face Sevilla again on Wednesday at the Camp Nou in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. They are 2-0 since the first leg.

“Of course we think we can turn it around, but it will be a very different game,” Koeman said. “The first thing is to show ambition. If we get a full performance, we have a chance.”

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