MADRID: Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola watched Lionel Messi register his 150th league goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Sevilla, but admitted that even the little master can’t win La Liga this season.
“Forget the league, we are not going to win,” said Guardiola, whose bitter rivals Real Madrid can restore their 10-point cushion against Malaga on Sunday.
“If this team has anything then it is that it competes, but there has been another side which has been better and achieved better results than us and there is no need to smooth over the fact.”
Despite his black mood, Guardiola insisted that his team would keep going until the end.
“Players at Barcelona go out to win. We have a very difficult tie in the next round of the Champions League (against AC Milan) but we are not going to hold back in the league and rest players,” he said.
A sublime chip from Messi brought up the Argentine’s 150th league goal for Barcelona, and his 14th in the last six games, after a Xavi Hernandez free-kick had put the champions ahead after 18 minutes.
Guardiola put out his strongest side as Barca continued their pursuit of Real with the only surprise the absence of Carles Puyol from the defence with Javier Mascherano chosen to play alongside Gerard Pique at centre half.
Adriano started at left-back in place of Eric Abidal who will be out of the game indefinitely as he awaits a liver transplant.
Adriano had a deflected shot which looped just over the crossbar and then Pedro Rodriguez, put through by Cesc Fabregas, had a strike parried by the keeper as the Catalan side pressed from the start.
Then Adriano was upended as he surged towards the area by Emir Spahic, who received a yellow card, and Xavi scored from the resultant free-kick.
Goalkeeper Andres Palop got a hand to the ball but could not stop it as it curled into the corner.
Andres Iniesta blazed wide while, at the other end, Manu del Moral caused the first real danger for Sevilla after outpacing Pique but his shot from a tight angle was beaten away by keeper Victor Valdes.
Messi doubled Barca’s lead mid-way through the first half with another collectors’ item.
He nutmegged Spahic on the edge of the area and then chipped the ball over the keeper.
Sevilla are the only side to have taken points off Barca at the Nou Camp this season in the league and they battled back with a Manu header coming back off the woodwork as Pique and Valdes looked on.
Frederic Kanoute had a shot blocked by Valdes while at the other end Pedro also was denied by Palop.
After the break Sevilla began to take the game to the visitors as Barca failed to show the same rhythm in the centre of the pitch and Manu fired inches wide from a Jesus Navas cross.
Iniesta then poked the ball just wide in front of goal after being set up by Messi and substitute Alexis Sanchez had a shot blocked by the keeper after running clear while Manu also had another glaring miss for Sevilla.
Rayo Vallecano moved within a point of the European places with a 3-0 victory over Real Betis.
The side from Madrid had the better of a hard fought first half between the two promoted teams and made the breakthrough after 50 minutes through a fine finish from Emiliano Armenteros with the outside of his boot.
Rayo continued to have the greater cutting edge and Diego Costa headed a second before Raul Tamudo secured the resounding victory in inury time.
Getafe put further distance between themselves and the drop zone as they bounced back from three straight defeats to beat second-from-bottom Sporting Gijon 2-0.
Rock-bottom Zaragoza were just minutes away from a much needed victory but Roversio equalised Helder Postiga’s opener after 88 minutes to give Osasuna a 1-1 draw.
Elsewhere, an own-goal from Inigo Martinez gave Getafe a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.