Barcelona manager refusing to declare Primera Division title race over
Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova is refusing to declare the La Liga title race over, despite his side's blistering form.
Last Updated: 26/11/12 11:23am
Sunday night's 4-0 win at Levante means the Catalan club remain unbeaten in the 2012/13 season, having picked up 37 points from the 39 on offer.
They are some 11 points clear of champions Real Madrid - the greater challenge so far coming from Atletico - and many consider the fight to be over already.
But, according to Vilanova, nothing could be further from the truth.
"We still have 75 points left to play for and Atletico Madrid are only three points behind us. We have a long way to go," he told his club's official website.
"La Liga is not over. I remind you that we have had this advantage before, yet then had to win our match at the Bernabeu (to be sure of success)."
It has been of some surprise that it is Atletico and not Real that have provided the strongest fight from the capital, and Diego Simeone's side are showing no signs of wilting just yet, with the brilliance of Radamel Falcao keeping them in the hunt.
A derby with Jose Mourinho's men will test them next week, though, and Vilanova added: "Atletico are very solid and strong this year, having ended last season on form.
"Next weekend we have to beat Athletic Bilbao. We don't care what happens between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. We can't do anything about that game."
Sunday night's win over Levante represented more than a three-point haul, though, for when Martin Montoya replaced Dani Alves in the second half, all 11 players on the field had passed through the club's academy.
"It's something that should make us happy. Seven or eight of them are Catalan, we have to be proud," Vilanova said.
"I did not plan to bring Alves off. He was injured and that's why I decided to send Montoya in. My priority wasn't putting 11 homegrown players out there."
Midfielder Xavi also hailed the club's La Masia academy.
"It's extraordinary, especially for those of us that learned to play football at La Masia," said the 32-year-old, who made his Barca debut in 1998.
"We're proving and showing the good work that's being done (in the youth system).
"(Louis) Van Gaal said that his dream was to field 11 homegrown players, and today that dream became a reality."
The visitors proved too strong for Levante thanks largely to another brace from Lionel Messi.
The Argentina star has now scored 82 goals in 2012 - just three shy of former West Germany and Bayern Munich striker Gerd Muller's record of 85, set in 1972.
Messi's goals were both set up by Andres Iniesta, who also hit the target himself before supplying Cesc Fabregas for the fourth.
Levante's misery was compounded by Victor Valdes saving Jose Maria Barkero's late penalty.