Mascherano says they still have respect for their great rivals.
He said: "They've got a great team with some great players, so they're on par with us. They're going to battle us for the title down to the wire. We'd be wrong to think that Real Madrid are going to drop points and so we can afford to do so too.
On the criticism of Barça's performances, he adds: "It stands us in good stead because it makes us push ourselves a little bit more. It's not easy to play every game at the same level. The team are competing, even if we sometimes don't sparkle."
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