Javier Mascherano has called on FC Barcelona to forget their recent domestic blip and "press the accelerator" against Manchester City FC on Wednesday.
Barcelona have lost two of their three Liga games since winning 2-0 at City in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie three weeks ago. It has left the third-placed Azulgrana four points adrift of leaders Real Madrid CF, whom they meet in next month's Copa del Rey final. Mascherano remains upbeat about the team's fortunes, however.
"At the beginning of the season, you imagine how things will develop," said the Argentinian international, 29. "At the moment we have the chance of doing something great, so it's time to press the accelerator and give it our all. This team has won so much – it isn't an entirely different team – and it's a challenge for us to prove we are the same as we were.
"We have been in football long enough to know that sometimes the media exaggerate a situation, but we have to live with that," continued the midfielder turned central defender. "This team has dealt with situations like this for a very long time. What we're concerned about is playing well, playing the way we have for a long time. Our intention isn't to quieten the criticism, but to return to our good football, return to the best we can be, because that's what will allow us to fight for three trophies."
Following Saturday's 1-0 reverse at lowly Real Valladolid CF, Mascherano insists it is he and his team-mates – and not Gerardo Martino, still in his first season in Europe as a coach – who must carry the can for any drop in standards. "We are here to play football, to make the fans happy, give our best and put on a good show," he said. "Everyone at a football club is responsible – in victory and in defeat, we are all equally to blame."
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