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Sunday, December 19, 2010
Guardiola hails brilliant Barcelona

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was happy with his side after their 5-1 demolition of city rivals Espanyol at Cornella on Saturday night, saying his players had passed their hardest test away from home with flying colours.

• Saturday review

Barca traditionally struggle in this fixture and were held to a goalless draw at Cornella last season, but there was only one winner this time around. Pedro and David Villa both scored twice, with Xavi netting the other as Barca served up another breathtaking exhibition of attacking football against an Espanyol side that came into this match with a perfect home record.

"It's the hardest away game of the season and we passed with distinction,'' the Barca coach said after the match. "We beat a very good team, not just a rival from our city, and that's important. Nobody was creating chances against them at home and they had only let in two (here), but we were able to deactivate them - it's a great night for us.''

Guardiola was particularly pleased with Pedro, who scored Barca's first and third goals and was a threat throughout the match as he switched positions with Lionel Messi in the Catalans' dynamic forward line.

"His performance speaks for itself,'' he said. "The solidarity and intensity of all of the players up front is very important and it helps the midfielders a lot - this team doesn't cease to surprise me and that leaves me very relaxed about the future.''

That future looks extremely bright, with many pundits and experts already talking of this Barcelona side as the best team in history.

"This dynamic depends only on us,'' Guardiola said. "We have to be able to keep motivating the players, but a time arrives when things come to an end. The secret is that the footballers are very good and all of the success they have achieved strengthens their state of mind.''

Barcelona's players were roundly jeered by the Espanyol faithful, with one exception - Andres Iniesta. Iniesta paid tribute to former Espanyol captain Dani Jarque - who died from a heart attack in the summer of 2009 - in the World Cup final, when he peeled off his Spain shirt to reveal a message to his departed friend after scoring the winner against Holland. That gesture went down well with the Espanyol fans at the time and the midfielder was cheered prior to the match, before receiving a rapturous standing ovation as he was substituted late on.

"Andres deserves it,'' Guardiola said. "But I would like to congratulate the fans at Cornella-El Prat for the gesture. We would like Andres to be the reflection of everything that this club represents.''

Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino also applauded the fans' gesture.

"The fans behaved wonderfully with Andres and that says a lot about Espanyol's support,'' he said.

And Pochettino claimed not to be too disheartened after losing out to a Barca side he said was close to perfection.

"We are on a good run and we can't let this defeat break that,'' he said. "I am pleased with the attitude of my players, but Barca are practically touching perfection and what we did today was not good enough. They are a great rival, both collectively and individually.''

Barca are now five points ahead of Real Madrid - who play Sevilla on Sunday - at the top of the table, while Espanyol drop to fifth after 16 rounds of the championship.




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