Barca ‘feeling the pressure’ of title run-in, insist Real

REAL MADRID believe that league leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona are choking under the pressure as the Spanish title race enters its decisive phase.

Barca have lost two of their last three games, going down 1-0 at Real Zaragoza and 2-0 at Villarreal, and their 1-0 victory over struggling Real Mallorca two weeks ago came courtesy of a last-gasp own goal.

Frank Rijkaard’s side were four points clear before the Villarreal defeat, but head into Sunday’s match against relegation-threatened Levante at the Nou Camp just one point ahead of Sevilla and two in front of Real.

“Barca are feeling the pressure, they are worried because at this stage in previous seasons they already had the league title sewn up,” Real’s sporting director Predrag Mijatovic said.

“They are afraid because they aren’t used to coping with this situation.”

Barca players, however, deny a third successive title is gradually slipping out of their grasp. “We will have a chance to rectify mistakes made before,” said Andres Iniesta. “The title race is very tight, but we are still in front.”

Barca will also be buoyed by the knowledge that they have not lost at the Nou Camp in the league this season and Levante have not won in nine games.

Real chalked up a morale-boosting 2-1 win at home to Valencia last weekend and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goals and the team’s growing self-belief have made them a force to be reckoned with.

“We’re more of a team now,” Brazilian midfielder Emerson said. “You can see it in training and in games.”

Real are at struggling Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and will be strong favourites given their powerful away form this season.

Second-placed Sevilla host fellow UEFA Cup semi-finalists Espanyol as they continue their bid for a domestic and European treble.

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