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BARCELONA | THIAGO ALCÁNTARA

"Real are the champions, you can't take them for granted"

"At the start of the season we didn't expect any of all these things that have happened. We couldn't have imagined breaking the record, although we always want to win every game," said Thiago.

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"Real are the champions, you can't take them for granted"

Thiago Alcántara believes the 11-point gap between Real Madrid and Barcelona is not indicative of a gulf in class between the two teams.

The Barça midfielder told a press conference on Thursday: "The distance between us and Madrid is not real, it doesn't mean the league is over yet. Who knows how we will finish, we may end up even more points ahead of them, or behind them, we don't know.

"Madrid will always be a dangerous rival, whether they are going through a good or bad run of form. They are the reigning league champions, you can never take them for granted."

Barcelona have won all of their league games so far this season apart from the 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in October, bettering their own record and are now one win from recording the best ever start to a league season by any Spanish club. However, Thiago insists no-one at the club was expecting such a strong start.

"At the start of the season we didn't expect any of these things to have happened. We couldn't have imagined breaking the record, although we always want to win every game. Now Atlético Madrid are playing extremely well and winning nearly every game too."

Atlético face Real Madrid this weekend in the derby but Thiago stressed his team would just be focusing on their own game with Athletic Bilbao this weekend.

"We won't benefit from the result, the most important thing for us is our game and getting three points. It doesn't matter who wins that game or if it's a draw, if we lose our game we won't benefit at all."

Thiago praised Atlético and said there was little to choose between the two clubs.

"Both are very strong teams. Madrid are Madrid and Atlético have been matching our results and following in our wake and they have also won trophies."

Thiago also analysed Barça's opponents on Saturday, Athletic Bilbao.

"They have dropped a level compared with last year. Javi Martínez leaving was a real blow to them, but they still have quality players like Iker Muniain and Markel Susaeta."

Thiago has suffered two big injuries in 2012 but said he is now feeling comfortable playing again.

"It's a strange sensation because you feel like everything could happen to you at any time but little by little you have to keep your head up."

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