x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Real refusing to throw in the towel

Real Madrid warn Barcelona they intend to fight the Catalan giants all the way for the Primera Liga title despite their El Clasico defeat.

Lionel Messi, centre, celebrates after opening the scoring against Real Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo, right, looks on.
Lionel Messi, centre, celebrates after opening the scoring against Real Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo, right, looks on.

Defiant Real Madrid have warned Barcelona they intend to fight the Catalan giants all the way for the Primera Liga title despite Saturday night's potentially crucial setback at the Bernabeu. Real went into the encounter holding a slight advantage at the top of the table because of their better goal difference, but they are now three points behind their arch rivals after slumping to a 2-0 defeat - their first at in this campaign.

Real had been in impressive form prior to the Barcelona clash, with 12 successive league wins behind them and a 100 per cent record at home with 15 victories out of 15 games, and there is the danger now that the fallout from losing their fourth successive El Clasico could spell the end of the club's title challenge. Real's players insist otherwise, however, with Ronaldo saying: "Barcelona were much better than us, but we need to lift our heads because there are seven games left.

"If we win the league you cannot talk about failure. We need to believe it's possible. "We're professionals and you cannot give up. We can win the league. "It's never good to lose but we have to learn from the defeats. Sometimes we win and others we lose, but we'll see what happens at the end." To make matters worse for the capital club, Barca now also boast the better head-to-head record having also won 1-0 at Camp Nou earlier this season.

That means Real need the champions to drop points in at least two of their remaining seven games if they are to pip Pep Guardiola's men to the championship. Last term Real capitulated after being thrashed 6-2 in the corresponding fixture, losing each of their final five games. Sergio Ramos, the Real defender, said: "The team are going to continue fighting to the death and we have to lift ourselves because there is still a lot of the league left."

The Spain international was also impressed by Barcelona, who took the lead midway through the first half when Lionel Messi scored his 40th goal of the season and they sealed their victory just after half-time with a breakaway goal by Pedro. "Barcelona played an almost perfect match tactically," added Ramos. Guardiola heaped praise on his side after the victory saw him become the first Barcelona coach to win four successive El Clasicos.

"We've come to the home of the leaders and won a very serious match. We are very happy," said Guardiola, who also saw his side secure their place in the semi- finals of the Champions League with a thumping 4-1 second leg win over Arsenal on Tuesday. "There are 21 points left but we've taken an important step. "I want to congratulate my players because to beat such an impressive team as Real Madrid is very difficult."

* PA