Vilanova: La Liga is not Barcelona's to lose

The Blaugrana coach warned that his side could still be overhauled in the championship race, while describing Sergio Busquets as "the best in the world in his position"
Tito Vilanova has moved to downplay Barcelona's advantage at the top of La Liga, insisting they could yet be caught should their rivals hit a rich vein of form.

Sunday's 4-1 dismantling of Atletico Madrid ensured the Blaugrana moved nine points clear at the summit, while Real Madrid's 2-2 draw with Espanyol saw their grip on the title slip further away.

However, Vilanova has warned that the championship race is far from over, and cited the campaign of 2008-09 as proof of the potentially precarious nature of their advantage.

He told reporters at a press conference: “We’ve won a lot of points, but it hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to battle back to win games and perhaps we won’t be able to do that in the future.

"In my first year [2008-09] we were 12 points back and we had to go to the Bernabeu and play for the title. Now, there’s a team that’s only nine points behind us.

"I don’t think that this title is ours to lose. If there is a team that has the capacity to win a lot of points, and they overtake us, then they deserve the title. It happened in 2009 and it could happen again.

"La Liga is not easy, and it certainly isn’t boring."

Vilanova highlighted the important timing of Adriano's first-half goal on Sunday which drew the sides level at Camp Nou, after Radamel Falcao had handed the visitors the lead.

“Adriano’s goal was very important, it was very difficult for us at first to break through, and that’s largely due Atletico’s brilliant performance," the 44-year-old continued.

"The goal gave us morale and from that point on we carried the initiative of the match.

“He [Adriano] is playing at a great level. The most important thing is for him to feel good. He went through a program to improve his fitness and that’s helped him a lot. His progress has been fantastic.”

Vilanova also admitted that he is finding it difficult to leave players out of the starting line-up due to the form of a number of his charges.

“Naming 11 players to start isn’t easy," he went on. "I thought we’d do well with the team I sent out and that Villa could help us in the second half. I understand that this isn’t easy for him, but we have a lot of talented players, [Javier] Mascherano and [Dani] Alves also watched the match from the bench.”

Lionel Messi once more grabbed the headlines, with his double taking his tally to 90 for 2012, but Vilanova was keen to praise the performance of unsung hero Sergio Busquets from midfield.

“It’s easy to focus on other players, but his work was simply spectacular," he added. "He’s the best in the world in his position and he can only get better.”