Pressure on Barca builds

MADRID - Barcelona must regroup after their humbling midweek Champions League defeat and turn their attention to domestic matters with the visit of basement side Xerez tomorrow.

MADRID - Barcelona must regroup after their humbling midweek Champions League defeat and turn their attention to domestic matters with the visit of basement side Xerez tomorrow.

Coach Pep Guardiola, who has watched city rivals Espanyol and Inter Milan shut down his side's passing game, has little margin for error as he pushes Barca towards the defence of their European and La Liga titles.

Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino outwitted Guardiola last weekend when they battled to a 0-0 draw with a turbo-charged pressing game, a result that allowed Real Madrid to close to within a point with five matches remaining.

Inter's Jose Mourinho went one better on Tuesday, exposing a surprisingly weak Barca defence after starving playmakers Xavi and Lionel Messi with a suffocating, robust approach.

Guardiola's decision to finish Tuesday's game with centre-back Gerard Pique playing as an auxiliary striker raised eyebrows with more recognised front men on the bench.

While he will be keen to rotate his squad against Xerez ahead of next Wednesday's return leg against Inter, the Barca coach will be wary of a slip-up against the wily Nestor Gorosito.

The Argentine has turned La Liga's whipping boys into a side with an outside chance of avoiding the drop.

Real Madrid face relegation-threatened Real Zaragoza tomorrow. - Reuters

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