Guardiola gamble costs Barcelona in title race
James Mariner is a journalist who has been boring The Independent sports desk with mindless statistics since June 2007. Helping with various, wide-ranging desk duties (I made the tea once), supervising workies and the endless researching of panels, James has an unnatural love of all things football, and in particular the Europa League, being a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. He cites Brian Sears and Ledley King among his heroes and can even find something interesting in Burnley v Hull City. On a good day.
Monday 13 February 2012
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.
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