Javier Mascherano gives pep talk

March 5, 2013
By ESPN.com news services

In the face of Barcelona president Sandro Rosell's criticism of the club's "defeatist attitude," central defender Javier Mascherano on Tuesday encouraged his teammates to return to the form they had three weeks ago.

"Three weeks ago this was like Disney and now it is a house of terror, and it seems like Madrid is on fire," Mascherano told reporters. "It is easier to analyze the last 15 days than the last 15 years. Success deforms you. What we have to analyze is the game and we have not been at the top in the last three matches. We have to get our game back."

Rosell on Monday encouraged players and fans to remain calm in the face of the recent 2-0 loss to AC Milan in the away leg of the last-16 round of the Champions League coupled with the two losses to Real Madrid (3-1 in the Copa del Rey and 2-1 in La Liga).

Barcelona's coach, Tito Vilanova, 44, has been in New York for the last two months receiving medical treatment. On Monday, Rosell said Vilanova would be back at the Camp Nou as soon as possible, but is not expected to be present for the Champions League return match against AC Milan on March 12.

"Our absolute priority, beyond titles, is a healthy Tito Vilanova," Rosell said.

With Vilanova absent, assistant coach Jordi Roura has tried to fill in the gap, but Barca's struggles have shown on the pitch.

"I would like to transmit calm. The world has not come to an end, although it may seem that way," Rosell said. "The reaction to the losses seems a bit exaggerated. If some day we lose, it should be against teams like Milan or Madrid."

Vilanova was on hand Monday night at Madison Square Garden to watch Rafael Nadal play in an exhibition match.

Nadal's publicist, B1PR, tweeted in Spanish: "Pleasure and happness to have Tito Vilanova here in the box at MSG tonight. We wish him the best and thank him for coming!"

Information from ESPNFC's Dermot Corrigan was used in this report.