Real focused on beating Barca again
Real Madrid have the chance to beat Barcelona again after they cruised into the Spanish cup final with a 3-1 win on Tuesday over their historic rivals in front of a stunned Camp Nou, their clearest win there since 1963.
Barca this time travel to Madrid for a fascinating league Clasico in which they will be desperate to gain revenge and dispel all the Madrid media talk about a change in the Spanish balance of power.
Real are practically out of the league title race, 16 points behind record-breaking Barca in third place. However they will not hold back despite Tuesday’s Champions League showdown at Manchester United.
Angel di Maria and Sergio Ramos are suspended, but otherwise coach Jose Mourinho will field his best eleven.
Mourinho originally wanted El Clasico played on Friday, in order to have more preparation time for Manchester. When the television operator rejected this, he insisted on the unpopular kick-off time of 4 pm (1500 GMT) exactly the same time United take on Norwich City at Old Trafford.
Defender Alvaro Arbeloa said the whites would be totally focused on Barcelona rather than on United.
“We will start to think about Manchester on Sunday,” he said. “Until then, our minds are on Barcelona, and how to get another good result against them.”
Midfielder Andres Iniesta – as dull and uninspired as his teammates on Tuesday – said Wednesday: “We are annoyed at what happened yesterday, but now we must focus on the next battle against them…Our style and mentality are not going to change.”
When asked to what extent Barca’s poor form was due to the absence of coach Tito Vilanova – still in New York for throat cancer treatment -Iniesta replied: “It is not easy to get by without the coach. He has been gone for a long time. But we are not going to ask him to return now because we are losing.”
Vilanova is now due back in Barcelona late March. Barca idol Lionel Messi, who was missing in action Tuesday, will be trying to stretch his scoring run in consecutive league matches to 16 games.
Saturday’s other games will be Deportivo Coruna v Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna v Athletic
Bilbao and the local derby between Valencia and Levante.
Valencia will be hoping for a comfortable game ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League showdown at Paris St Germain but are unlikely to get that against a Levante team who beat them 1-0 in October.
Sunday’s games are Granada v Mallorca, Malaga v Atletico Madrid, Espanyol v Valladolid and Real Sociedad v Betis.
Friday will see Getafe against Zaragoza, and Monday Sevilla against Celta Vigo.