Real refuse to raise white flag

MADRID - Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini is refusing to throw in the towel as arch-rivals Barcelona close in on a second straight La Liga title.

MADRID - Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini is refusing to throw in the towel as arch-rivals Barcelona close in on a second straight La Liga title.

Following exits from the Champions League and King's Cup, Real are in danger of ending the campaign with no silverware despite spending so much on players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.

They trailed Barca by six points ahead of yesterday's match at mid-table Almeria and host third-placed Valencia on Sunday, but Pellegrini said his side could still dethrone the Catalans.

"Any advantage at this stage of the season is significant but we still have 21 points to play for," he told reporters. "We have to fight for the league title.

"The thing I am least concerned about is my future and I am not worried about what can happen," added the Chilean.

"I have one more year on my contract and I hope to complete it and there has been no indication from the club that it won't be completed."

The Madrid-based sports media are already speculating about a potential replacement, with Liverpool's Rafa Benitez, Inter Milan's Jose Mourinho and Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti mentioned.

European champions Barca, who play at city rivals Espanyol tomorrow, crushed Deportivo Coruna 3-0 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday and have 83 points with six matches remaining. The mood in the Catalan capital is could scarcely be more different to the gloom in Madrid, with Barca and La Liga top scorer Lionel Messi earning praise from all quarters for their spectacular form.

Pep Guardiola said tomorrow's match at Espanyol was the key game in the run-in to the end of the season. - Reuters

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