Ernesto Valverde insists Barcelona must keep focused after opening up five-point lead in La Liga

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Ernesto Valverde is not taking any comfort from Barcelona’s healthy lead in the La Liga title race after watching his side squeeze past Getafe 2-1.

Lionel Messi notched his 16th league goal of the season and Luis Suarez his 12th as Barca went 2-0 up in the first half, while Jaime Mata pulled one back for Getafe before the break.

The Catalans are now five points clear of Atletico Madrid, with Sevilla and Alaves another two and four points behind respectively.

Real Madrid are down in fifth and 10 points off the pace after losing 2-0 at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

However, Valverde told Marca: “We knew about the other results before kick-off and were under pressure to take advantage of the opportunity.

“But I do not think too much about the other teams. We have a lot to do.

“I don’t know if there were similar gaps between clubs at this point last year but I do know that we did not manage to win the league until almost the end of the season.”

Referring to the second half, which saw seventh-placed Getafe fight back admirably to slash the deficit, Valverde said: “It was essential for us to stay focused and not let the game get away from us.

“They are a tough team, with strong players when you go one-on-one, and the game was tight.

“There were times after the break when they were the better side. Towards the end we managed to keep hold of the ball and that’s how we stayed out of trouble.

“We expected a difficult game and they got back into the game with the goal, but we’re happy.”

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Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde open to January transfers

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Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is open to the idea of the Catalan side dipping into the transfer market this month, but is not expecting much movement at Camp Nou.

This time twelve months ago, the La Liga champions signed Yerry Mina from Palmeiras and Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool – both of whom cost the club a combined €171.8m.

Barcelona signed four more players in the summer of 2018, and further recruits are possible over the next few weeks.

Asked about his plans this month, Valverde said: “We are always open to improving but we will have to see if any players come in.

“But, in principle, we are happy with what we have and I am focused on the players we have here.”

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Santi Cazorla double stuns Real Madrid and earns Villarreal precious draw

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Villarreal

Santi Cazorla’s first La Liga goals since 2012 stunned Real Madrid and stole struggling Villarreal a 2-2 draw at Estadio de la Ceramica.

The former Arsenal midfielder bagged a brace – including an 82nd-minute equaliser – as Real slumped to an eighth league game without victory in just 17 games this term, leaving them seven points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Cazorla has relaunched his injury-hit career back in Spain this season, returning to his homeland after six years with the Gunners.

And the 34-year-old found the net in Spanish top-flight action for the first time since scoring for Malaga in a 1-1 draw at Osasuna on April 23, 2012 when he put Villarreal ahead after just four minutes on Thursday night.

Real quickly responded with goals from French duo Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, but they could not hold on as Cazorla notched a rare headed goal at the death to grab a share of the spoils for the Yellow Submarine.

Gareth Bale was withdrawn at half-time in another blow to Real, having appeared to struggle with a possible left calf complaint late in the first half.

Former Spain schemer Cazorla handed Villarreal a flying start, firing in a low drive after Samuel Chukwueze had teed up the chance.

Real calmly set about reversing their fortunes, however, and when Lucas Vazquez whipped in a teasing cross, Benzema buried his header to square up the match just three minutes later.

That was Benzema’s 12th goal of the season in all competitions and he should have doubled his own and Real’s tally three minutes on from that, only to nod his header wide from Marcelo’s centre.

France World Cup-winner Varane made no mistake with a header of his own in the 20th minute, though, powering in from Toni Kroos’ cross for his first club goal in almost two years.

Real held onto that lead until the break, but try as they might after the interval were unable to cement their dominance.

The visitors had several chances to extend their lead without success, leaving them susceptible right until the death.

And Cazorla twice laid on fine balls for his team-mates that left Madrid relieved not to concede an equaliser.

First Victor Ruiz headed high and wide from Cazorla’s cross, then Alvaro Gonzalez followed suit.

But just when Real thought they could tiptoe home with the points, up popped Cazorla late on to nod in the equaliser and snatch a draw.

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