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La Liga: Wins give Real Madrid and Barça belief ahead of clásico

As Spain’s 'Big Two' meet twice in the space of a week, Mourinho insists recent form is irrelevant.

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Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The league title has virtually been decided. But there is still plenty to play for when Barça and Real Madrid meet this week, including a place in the Copa del Rey final.

More often than not it comes down to this. In a league dominated by the ‘Big Two’ of Real Madrid and Barcelona, when the business end of the season arrives, it’s the arch-rival that stands in the way.

They are familiar foes and yet the rivalry does not dim, does not lose its edge, it only seems to get bigger and more meaningful, with more riding on their meetings every season.

This week there will be two Clásicos in the space of five days, the first tonight, is the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou, while the other, on Saturday, is a league fixture to be played at the Bernabéu.

Real Madrid will most likely be conceding their league title to the Catalans come the end of the season, so they will be desperate to salvage some pride with victory over their eternal enemy while Barça will want to underline their dominance and rub salt into the wound with wins over Los Blancos.

Ahead of the game, José Mourinho’s men had to come from behind to secure a late win against Deportivo La Coruña at the Riazor on Saturday. With one eye on the week ahead, Real’s coach rested key players including Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil but was soon forced to re-think his lineup when Riki put the host ahead in the 35th minute.

Just over 10 minutes into the second half, Mourinho took action, making a triple substitution to bring on Ronaldo, Sami Khedira and Özil.

The changes had the desired effect, with the visitors pulling level in the 73rd minute with a Kaká strike and then, with two minutes remaining on the clock, the Brazilian’s through-ball was laid across the goal by Ronaldo, offering Gonzalo Higuaín the easiest of finishes to take three points.

Barcelona were also forced to stage a comeback against Sevilla at the Camp Nou when they found themselves trailing at halftime.

Coming against the run of play, Alberto Botía nodded past Víctor Valdés in the 42nd minute to give the visitors a one-goal lead, but the hosts improved after the break with Dani Alves crossing for David Villa to head the equaliser just seven minutes after the restart. On the hour mark, a slick passing move led the ball to Lionel Messi in the penalty area and the Argentine struck his 38th league goal of the season.

The weekend victories could prove a much-needed morale boost for both teams, with Barça’s form having dipped in the New Year – they suffered a 2-0 defeat mid-week against AC Milan in the Champions League – and Madrid having erratic form throughout the season.

But as Mourinho was quick to point out in a very rare appearance at a pre-match press conference yesterday: “Form does not matter so much in games between the best teams. The moment in which the game is played has no significance.”

Perhaps not, but hunger does. If there is nothing else to separate the two sides, perhaps it will come down to who wants it more. After a 1-1 draw in the Copa first leg, Barcelona will not want to lose at home in front of their own fans in a knockout tie, nor in the league game, despite the fact that they are liga champions-elect with a 16-point lead over Madrid, in third place, and 12 points ahead of Atlético Madrid in second.

Meanwhile, Madrid, who have performed better at the Camp Nou than at the Santiago Bernabéu in recent years, are staking their entire season on the Copa del Rey and Champions League. They don’t have the luxury of falling back on a league title win and were it not Barça facing them in the semi-final of the cup, it would be easier to focus solely on European competition. But as it is, neither side will want to lose face.

RESULTS:

Levante UD 0 – 2 Osasuna

Real Betis 3 – 0 Málaga CF

Atlético Madrid 1 – 0 RCD Espanyol

Celta de Vigo 2 – 1 Granada CF

Rayo Vallecano 1 – 2 Real Valladolid

FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Sevilla FC

Deportivo La Coruña 1 – 2 Real Madrid

Real Zaragoza 2 – 2 Valencia CF

RCD Mallorca 1 – 3 Getafe CF

Athletic Bilbao 1 – 3 Real Sociedad





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Published: Feb 26 2013
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=8051
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