Koeman: My players have given me a great birthday present

Ronald Koeman is expecting his Barcelona side to run Atletico Madrid close in this season's LaLiga Santander title race.

The Catalans cut Atletico's lead at the top of the table to four points on Sunday, overtaking Real Madrid in the process, with a 6-1 win over Real Sociedad.

"Every game is difficult," Koeman - who turned 58 this Sunday - said at full time.

"For us and for [Atletico]. Real Madrid are there too.

"It's going to be exciting until the end of the season.

"I now hope all the players can return from the break without problems.

"They have given me a great birthday present, while it has also been a great birthday for Jordi Alba and Antoine Griezmann."

Barcelona have now won five matches in a row in LaLiga Santander and the coach was asked if they are the best team in the league at the moment.

"I don't know," Koeman said.

"We've gone a lot of games unbeaten, but we're still behind Atletico, who have also improved.

"We have to keep going. They're going to fight until the end."

With Real Madrid and Atletico still to play, you could argue that Barcelona can win the title if they simply avoid defeat.

"I'm not sure that we're not going to lose," Koeman insisted.

"There are lots of tough games.

"The best thing we can do is keep doing what we're doing - starting games with lots of focus.

"The finishing we showed today will be important if we're going to win something."

Barcelona's upturn in form has coincided with a switch to play with three central defenders.

"We've been playing well and we have improved defensively since changing formation," Koeman said.

"It also has its risks. We played man-to-man today and, if it goes wrong, it can cost goals.

"Pressing like that is risky. Sometimes it's dangerous, but the team is confident."

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