MADRID - David Villa's return to
goalscoring form has provided a much-needed lift to Barcelona
and coach Pep Guardiola, whose defensive problems have been
compounded again by injuries to Gabriel Milito and Maxwell.
With Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Adriano also on the
medical list, Guardiola has a severe defensive headache as Barca
prepare for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg
away to a Real Madrid side now bristling with confidence.
The silver lining to the dark cloud of injury news was
Villa's goal in a laboured 2-0 La Liga win at home to Osasuna on
Saturday, the Spanish striker's first in 12 games in all
"The most important thing is that the team scores and wins,"
said Villa, who was visibly relieved after his goal in the 24th
minute at the Nou Camp, his 18th in the league this season.
"There is time now to rest and to think about the first leg
of the Champions League semis," the striker told reporters, as
Barca maintained their eight-point lead over Real with five
league games left to play.
It was unclear how long Milito (calf) and Maxwell (groin)
would be out of action, Barca said on their website
following scans on Sunday.
Puyol trained apart from the rest of the squad on Sunday,
while Abidal and Adriano are unlikely to play again this season.
Last week's dramatic King's Cup Final victory over Barca has
provided a palpable boost to Real coach Jose Mourinho and his
players and they romped to a 6-3 win at third-placed Valencia on
Saturday despite resting several key squad members.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain netted three on Real's return to the
Mestalla stadium, three days after victory there earned them a
first domestic cup since 1993, and playmaker Kaka scored twice
as the pair continued their comeback from injury.
Real's cup win came after a 1-1 draw at home to Barca in La
Liga, a result which helped banish memories of their 5-0
drubbing at the hands of the Catalan club in November's league
game at the Nou Camp.
Guardiola admitted that the balance of power had shifted to
the Spanish capital since then.
"We know that Madrid are not going to lose any more (league)
games because with a title in the bag they are liberated and we
have to get back to winning ways," he told a news conference
after the Osasuna game.
"We are not going (to Madrid) in the best condition but in
mental terms we will travel to the Bernabeu with a lot of
enthusiasm," he added.
"We accept that Madrid are favourites, they have earned that
in the last few weeks, and we'll try to turn that around."
Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets, whom Guardiola has
deployed as a makeshift centre-back in recent weeks together
with Javier Mascherano, said injuries could not be used as an
excuse for failure at this crucial stage of the season.
"The more players we have available the stronger we are, as
that means the coach has more options," Busquets said at a news
conference on Sunday.
"But there are no excuses now and we can't allow fatigue to
be an issue either."
The return leg of the Champions League semi-final is at the
Nou Camp on May 3. The winners of the tie will play Premier
League leaders Manchester United or Bundesliga side Schalke 04
in the final in London on May 28.
Pardew to report to returning ex-manager
Sub scores to make it three World Cups in a row
Three-year jail sentence a possibility
Principality project faces legal wrangles over exceptional circumstances
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010