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Mission impossible as Mourinho gives up title race

MADRID, Spain December 17 – With Real Madrid trailing La Liga leaders Barcelona by 13 points, Jose Mourinho admits that the title race is over.

While Barcelona kept up their prolific form with their 15th win in 16 games by beating second-place Atletico Madrid 4-1, Mourinho’s stuttering Real could only draw 2-2 against lowly Espanyol.

“The league is now impossible,” said Mourinho. “It is the first time that I have been in a situation like this where my team are a long way off their objectives.

“Thirteen points is too big a gap to overcome but what we have to do is go out and play each game. We shouldn’t be thinking about who is first, second or third.

“We have to be stronger. I don’t want to make a drama out of it, I will treat it as another stage of my life.

“I have never dropped so many points before but we will try and finish the season as well as possible and fight for the titles which are available.”

On Sunday, Cristiano Ronaldo equalised for defending champions Madrid on the stroke of half-time after Sergio Garcia had put joint-bottom Espanyol ahead on the half hour mark.

Two minutes after the restart, Fabio Coentrao put Real in front but it was not enough as Juan Albin slotted home from close range two minutes from the end.

“Cristiano played well but his teammates didn’t,” said Mourinho, whose side still have a chance of lifting the Champions League.

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“The attitude has been good and what we need is a bit of calm and luck. For the effort of the players we deserved to win but we wasted clear-cut chances.

“Each of us has to pick ourselves up. It is what you have to do as professionals to keep going even though you aren’t happy, you aren’t enjoying it and you aren’t chasing the objectives that you set out to achieve.”

The pressure is firmly on Mourinho and it has been reported in the Spanish press that his criticism of players has created a rift in the dressing room.

“There is always talk like this but it doesn’t influence in anyway. The team is fine, although we don’t show the same happiness if we aren’t winning. On another day we would have had three or four goals (against Espanyol).”

At Camp Nou, meanwhile, Barcelona saw off closest challengers Atletico who remain in second spot, but are now nine points off the lead.

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao put Atletico ahead after 31 minutes with his 17th league goal of the season, but Barca responded with goals from Adriano and Sergio Busquets before half-time.

After the break, Lionel Messi scored his 24th and 25th league goals of the campaign, and now has 90 in the calendar year, as Tito Vilanova’s side extended their record start to 15 wins from 16 games.

Despite their huge advantage, Vilanova insisted the title race is not over, pointing out that Barcelona, under Pep Guardiola, overcame a 12-point deficit to overhaul Real Madrid and claim the 2008-2009 La Liga title.

“We’ve won a lot of points, but it hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to battle back to win games and perhaps we won’t be able to do that in the future,” said Vilanova.

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“In my first year (as Guardiola’s assistant in 2008/09) we were 12 points back and we had to go to the Bernabeu and play for the title. Now, there’s a team that’s only nine points behind us.

“I don’t think that this title is ours to lose. If there is a team that has the capacity to win a lot of points, and they overtake us, then they deserve the title. It happened in 2009 and it could happen again.”

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