Barca maintain streak

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MADRID, January 25 – After winning their historic treble last season it was always going to be difficult for Barcelona to produce that consistency again but statistics show their high standards have not dipped much.
Barcelona beat Valladolid 3-0 on Saturday to stay five points ahead of Real Madrid, who won 2-0 at home to Malaga on Sunday, to complete a fantastic first half of the season with a last 16 Kings Cup exit to Sevilla the only real blip.

Barcelona became only the fifth team to be unbeaten at the midway point of 19 games, joining Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Espanyol and Real Sociedad in the elite club.

No Spanish team has ever gone the whole season unbeaten over a 38-game season with Real the last side to go the whole campaign unbeaten back in 1932 although there were only 18 games.

A record of 15 wins and four draws has produced 49 points just one less than their record-breaking 50 point total at this stage last season.

"We got 50 last season and 49 this season so we are on the same track but there are lots of games left in the season," said coach Pep Guardiola.

"It is not bad to finish the first half of the season unbeaten but there are so many games left to play.

"At this stage last season we were 12 points clear of Madrid and we had to go to the (Santiago) Bernabeu to win the league."

Last season Barca streaked 12 points clear of their rivals Real but then let their guard down and had to produce a title winning 6-2 win at the Bernabeu to all but clinch the title.

Guardiola is obviously keen to avoid the same thing happening again and preferred not to dwell on the five point gap.

"I still don’t think the (points) difference is an issue, there’s plenty of games left to play," added Guardiola. "How we get through now is up to us, not any other team."

As well as going unbeaten Barca have the best attack in the league with 49 goals and the meanest defence conceding just 10 goals.

Barca’s 3-0 win over Valladolid meant a third consecutive clean sheet in the league and a lot of that was down to goalkeeper Victor Valdes who pulled off some key saves.

"On a personal level I am happy and thanks to the confidence we have and the run the team are on I am not conceding many goals," said Valdes.

"Letting in just ten goals is to everyone’s credit and I am proud of the whole defensive system and my team-mates."

Following their elimination from the Kings Cup and with the Champions League ties against VfB Stuttgart not until February, Barca can focus solely on the league – something they couldn’t do much last season.

"It is time for the league now and we don’t have any other competitions at the moment," said Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta also defended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has hit a dry patch with his last goal coming back in December.

"He (Ibrahimovic) understands the game well and gives us lots of options and for a central midfielder that is essential," explained Iniesta.

"He doesn’t need to worry about not scoring because he is a great striker and the goals will come."

Goals have not really been a problem for Barca of late with Lionel Messi scoring six in the last three games to take his season’s tally to 15 while the team has plundered 12 in the last three outings.

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