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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Vilanova sticks up for Sanchez

ESPN.com news services

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova leapt to the defense of Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean came in for criticism for a string of misses in Wednesday night's surprise Copa del Rey draw with Malaga.

"If he has missed chances it is because he has made the sprints to have them," Vilanova told the club's website Thursday. "We can accept him missing chances, but not him not trying. He tried."

The reigning King's Cup holders could only draw 2-2 with a Malaga side that was down to 10 men for the final 15 minutes of their quarterfinal tie at the Nou Camp.

Manuel Iturra capitalized on sloppy Barca defending to give the visitors an early lead, and although Barca hit back through Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol, Malaga snatched an impressive draw when Ignacio Camacho fired home in the final minute.

For all of Barca's collective failings, it was Sanchez who was made the scapegoat by many.

But Vilanova insisted he must protect the 24-year-old from public criticism.

"He is one of us and if we don't help him he will go into his shell and it will be even harder for him," he said.

Barca head into Saturday's Primera Division trip to Real Sociedad 11 points clear at the summit at the midway point in the La Liga season, with closest challenger Atletico Madrid in action at home to Levante this weekend.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone had some sobering words for fans of the club this week when he said he could not promise Radamel Falcao will remain with Los Colchoneros next season.

The in-form striker has been linked with a host of Europe's top clubs, and Simeone said supporters should just enjoy watching the Colombian while he is still at the club.

"We need to be realistic and I don't like to lie to the fans," he told Marca. "I don't know what can happen with Falcao and we need to enjoy him now he is with us. If he stays then it's much better, but I don't look so far ahead."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.




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