Guardiola gamble costs Barcelona in title race


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The Independent Football

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola admitted his gamble with team selection failed as his side fell further behind Real Madrid in the title race. The reigning Spanish and European champions lost 3-2 at Osasuna on Saturday, after Guardiola named a much-changed line-up with tomorrow's Champions League trip to Bayer Leverkusen in mind. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas started on the bench.

"Osasuna started well and adapted to the pitch and cold better," Guardiola said. "We struggled to get into the game. The league is much tougher, but we have to keep going." Dejan Lekic (two) and Raul Garcia scored for Osasuna, with Alexis Sanchez and Cristian Tello replying for the champions. Barcelona remained seven points behind Jose Mourinho's side ahead of Real's match against Levante last night.

In Italy, Milan warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League visit of Arsenal by going top of Serie A following a 2-1 win at Udinese, with goals from Maxi Lopez and Stephan El Shaarawy. Previous leaders Juventus had their trip to Bologna postponed due to the weather. Ajax prepared for the Europa League visit of Manchester United with a 2-0 victory at NAC, although they remain eight points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven.