Madrid: Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura was delighted with his players’ response after a difficult week as they beat Sevilla 2-1 to stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to 15 points.
A 2-0 defeat to AC Milan on Wednesday has left the Catalans with an uphill task if they are to secure their third Champions League title in five years and it seemed their cruise towards a 22nd league title was also about to be stalled when Alberto Botia headed Sevilla into a 1-0 half-time lead on Saturday evening.
However, Roura introduced Cristian Tello for Alexis Sanchez at the break and he was to have a telling effect as after David Villa had equalised, Tello set up Lionel Messi for the winner just before the hour mark.
“Winning is always the most important thing,” Roura said.
“The reaction of the team was important. We wanted to see how the team would react and this team has, again, come out of a difficult moment in front. We have to be happy.
“We moved the change at half-time forward because Alexis had taken a hard knock. We decided to open the game up with Tello wide and Villa in the area. It went well because we were able to score and generally in the second half things went better.”
However, Roura did accept that Barca’s continued struggles at the back were a concern ahead of Tuesday’s Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg against Real Madrid and the return against Milan in a fortnight’s time.
It was the 11th game in a row that the Catalans had conceded at least once and Sevilla had other chances to equalise after the hosts had turned the game around in the second-half.
“My intention and wish would be to not concede any goal, but it is clear that we are having problems in this aspect.
“There were avoidable errors and there are aspects we can improve on. We are the top-scoring team but positionally we have to improve. We will try to ensure this doesn’t continue happening.”
Real Madrid meanwhile warmed up for the cup clash with Barca in midweek in remarkably similar fashion as they too had to overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit to beat bottom-placed Deportivo la Coruna 2-1 at La Riazor.
Jose Mourinho had rested a number of his key players with one eye on Tuesday night but it was only after he introduced Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira from the bench that Madrid got going as goals from Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain in the final 17 minutes closed the gap on Atletico Madrid in second to just a point.
Real assistant boss Aitor Karanka, though, believes it was an overall change of attitude in the second period and not just the changes that made the difference.
“The start didn’t surprise me because we knew that they had a lot to play for. The surprise was that we didn’t go into the break losing by more goals,” he said.
“The first half wasn’t good and we had to make substitutions at the beginning of the second, but it wasn’t the changes that improved the team, it was the attitude of everyone that provoked the comeback.”
However, the night didn’t end well for Madrid as Angel di Maria was ludicrously sent off as he received two yellow cards in barely 20 seconds for not allowing Depor to take a free-kick and will now miss the league game with Barcelona next weekend.
It was the seventh time in 13 games this year that Los Blancos have had a man sent off and Karanka doesn’t believe his players are getting fair treatment from the officials.
“It is very little to send a player off for. It will be front page news the day we finish with 11 players.”