Apr 27, 2011

Real v Barcelona preview

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After verbal jousting, analysis of the 'psychological edge' and quotes from Albert Einstein, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet for the third time in the space of 11 days on Wednesday night.

The Bernabeu will play host to the first leg of a UEFA Champions League semi-final El Clasico which has all the ingredients to meet the expectations and hype surrounding the build-up.

Jose Mourinho's Real have emerged in the eyes of some as favourites to secure an aggregate win and book a place at Wembley after holding Barcelona to a draw in La Liga and defeating Pep Guardiola's team in the Copa del Rey final earlier in April.

But Mourinho has been attempting to cast his side as underdogs and, at the same time, has been playing his usual mind games in a bid to unsettle Guardiola, who seems to have uncharacteristically risen to the bait.

Whether the spat, Mourinho accusing Guardiola of complaining about referees, has in fact distracted the latter to an extent other than a few words and finger wagging at a press conference remains to be seen, but to spectators it has added an extra bit of needle to the contest.

Real's manager has been at his best in public preparation for the European visit of domestic rivals Barcelona, playing down his side's chances, adding pressure on the opposition and revealing that he has been referencing Einstein quotes regarding the importance of willpower.

Mourinho will also be boosted by the knowledge that Real have twice eliminated Barcelona at the semi-final stage before going on to win the competition, most recently nine years ago and prior to that in 1960.

The former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager, who won the Champions League with Inter last season having knocked out Guardiola's Barcelona in the semis, also takes his team into the midweek fixture on the back of a thumping 6-3 league win at Valencia on Saturday.

Real, though, will be missing Sami Khedira through injury and Lassana Diarra is likely to provide cover, while Fernando Gago is also unavailable due to a fitness problem.

The hero from the quarter-final win over Tottenham, Emmanuel Adebayor, is expected to be back in contention after a groin complaint and Angel Di Maria is also in the squad following his recovery from a bruised knee.

Following his side's win at Osasuna on Saturday, Guardiola has spoken of his concern that Real are in 'their form of the season' and he will also be hampered by the fact that one of his star men, Andres Iniesta (calf), will be absent in the Spanish capital.

In contrast, both captain Carles Puyol and Gabriel Milito have returned to training in the wake of injury scares, but Adriano is facing four weeks of rehabilitation for a torn thigh muscle.



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