Pepe: 'We have hit our best form'
AFP/The Local · 4 Mar 2013, 15:55
Published: 04 Mar 2013 15:55 GMT+01:00
The Spanish champions even had the luxury of resting a number of key players as Jose Mourinho made seven changes from the side that had beaten Barça 3-1 in the Copa del Rey in midweek and Pepe believes that only goes to show the incredible wealth of options Mourinho has to choose from.
"We have hit our best form. Apart from Iker Casillas we have everyone available and the manager has great solutions on the bench as today showed," he said.
"We have achieved two important victories given the form and quality of the opponent we were playing and that gives us great motivation for the Manchester United game. We are happy and now we need to rest and think about the game on Tuesday."
Sergio Ramos' header proved to be the winner nine minutes from time after Lionel Messi had equalled Alfredo Di Stefano's record of 18 goals in meetings between the two in the first half to cancel out Karim Benzema's opener.
But Barça were left furious at the end when Messi wasn't given the chance to salvage a point for his side when referee Miguel Perez Lasa turned down strong penalty claims in stoppage time after Ramos appeared to have felled Adriano inside the area.
The appeals were so ferocious that goalkeeper Victor Valdés was shown a red card after the final whistle had gone and Pepe was quick to point out that the Barça players had let themselves down by the way they reacted towards the referee.
"I didn't see the incident clearly because it happened behind me. People have said to me that it is not a penalty and the referee had a good game, he didn't benefit one team or the other.
"I saw situations which I never thought I would see with Barça. The way they surrounded the referee at the end to protest is not the lovely image that they try to portray every day. They will be sad having lost two games to us."
Once again it was Barça's defensive weaknesses that were exposed as for the first time since 1962 they have now conceded for 13 consecutive games.
However, defender Jordi Alba insisted that despite three defeats in four games the Catalans were still confident of overcoming a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan in their own crucial Champions League tie in just over a week's time.
"We leave without a point but we still have a good lead over Atlético and Real Madrid. It was a very even game and the fair result would have been a draw," he said.
"We have been able to have possession, but in long balls and set-pieces they have caused a lot of damage. We need to give everything and more to go through the tie against Milan but we still believe in ourselves."