Puyol hits back at Barcelona critics

Barcelona: Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has hit back at critics who insist that the European and Spanish champions are struggling to maintain their high standards of last season.

The Catalan giants face Osasuna on Saturday after drawing 2-2 against Real Sociedad, despite having gone two goals up, before they squandered a 2-1 lead over AC Milan in the Champions League by conceding a goal during injury time despite dominating the match.

Having won three straight Spanish leagues, as well as two Champions Leagues in three years, the spotlight has been on whether Barca can retain the same ambition but Puyol is angry they are being judged so quickly.

"We are fine and we are not listening to what people are saying from outside the club. The team was frustrated and it left a bad taste in the mouth (after the Milan game) but we have already turned the page. Before we were not the best and now we are not the worst," said Puyol.

"We want to win as much as ever but it is true that we need to be concentrated especially at set-plays. We need to ensure that the opposition don`t get the ball and they don`t score."

Part of the problem has been a makeshift defence with Gerard Pique injured and Puyol himself only fit for a substitute`s role against Milan following a long spell on the sidelines.

Coach Pep Guardiola has also been hit with injuries to Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez.

In contrast, there is a mood of optimism in the Real Madrid camp.

"We want to compete for all the competitions and I don`t want to pick between the league and the Champions League over which would be more important," said Xabi Alonso, as his team prepare to face Levante.

"We were not at our best in the last league match against Getafe as we lacked control over the game but it is good to be able to make corrections while still having won."

Along with Real Madrid, Valencia and Real Betis have also taken maximum points from their first two games.

The form of Roberto Soldado, who has scored four of their five goals, has been crucial for Valencia.

They now play pointless Sporting Gijon while Betis are away to Athletic Bilbao who are still finding their feet under new coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Granada are the other side which are yet to pick up a point so far and they will be hoping that Villarreal arrive tired after their exertions in the Champions League where they lost to Bayern Munich.

Malaga`s expensively-assembled team clicked into gear with a 4-0 trouncing of Granada in their last match and now travel to Mallorca.

Real Sociedad will be on a high against Sevilla after their comeback against Barca but in contrast Atletico Madrid take on Racing Santander still looking to score their first goal in the league.

Zaragoza and Getafe have also made slow starts with just one point so far and they face Espanyol and Rayo Vallecano respectively.


Sporting Gijon v Valencia, Granada v Villarreal, Mallorca v Malaga, Barcelona v Osasuna, Sevilla v Real Sociedad


Getafe v Rayo Vallecano, Zaragoza v Espanyol, Atletico Madrid v Racing Santander, Levante v Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis

Bureau Report

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