Madrid, Feb 27 (AFP) Leaders Barcelona shrugged offclaims that they were starting to feel the strain as amakeshift side kept the pressure on at the top of the tablewith a 3-0 win over Mallorca.
The Catalan side had not been at their best in recentweeks as they lost to Arsenal in the Champions League and thenstruggled to beat Athletic Bilbao, and injuries to XaviHernandes, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes suggested that theirexertions were starting to take their toll.
However, after a slow start against Mallorca yesterdaythey extended their lead to eight points over second-placedReal Madrid who play Deportivo La Coruna later, with LionelMessi leading the way.
With Dani Alves also suspended it was an unfamiliarlooking Bar�a side but after Messi opened the scoring with aheader following a hesitation in the penalty area, they neverlooked back.
David Villa may have been narrowly offside as he racedclear of the defence to increase the lead and then PedroRodriguez completed the scoring.
Facing the ominous task of catching Barcelona, Real coachJose Mourinho tried to relax his players by saying that evenif they do finish second then the season would have been farfrom a disaster.
"We have to go our own way and look for stability. If wedon''t win the league and then change everything in the summerit would be a case of starting all over again," said Mourinho.
"It is important to go in the right direction and it islogical that the young players we have will get better and winthings. I am not saying we will finish second though and wecould still win the treble."
An impressive second half display by Espanyol helped themto a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad and put their European hopesback on track. MORE (AFP) PM