Overcoming Real Madrid's
mental block against Barcelona will be the chief concern for
coach Jose Mourinho when the teams resume their battle for
supremacy on Wednesday.
Real host their arch-rivals for a King's Cup quarter-final
first leg having won 22 of their last 23 matches in
all competitions, the one defeat being a 3-1 La Liga reverse at
Barca's hands at the Bernabeu six weeks ago.
Mourinho has managed only one victory over Barca in eight
attempts since taking the job two years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo
nodding an extra-time winner in a 1-0 triumph in last season's
King's Cup final.
Four defeats and three draws across four competitions make
up the rest of the story but the coach goes into Wednesday's tie
holding a five-point La Liga lead over the champions.
Mourinho has made it clear the league is this season's
priority and he would be able to write off a King's Cup slip-up
However, the psychological impact of the clasico tussles
could play a big role in each team's campaign.
"You'll have to ask the Madrid players if we have eaten into
their morale," Barca midfielder Xavi told a news conference on
"Winning or losing will have a big effect on a team's state
of mind. The winner will receive a huge confidence boost."
Spanish international Xavi responded to questions about
Ronaldo, who has gone off the boil in recent games and received
whistles from some sectors of the Bernabeu crowd since his
below-par showing at last month's clasico.
The comparisons with Lionel Messi, crowned World Player of
the Year for the third time last week, appear to weigh heavy on
the Portuguese forward who has scored three times in 10 clasicos compared to the Argentine's seven strikes over the
"Messi always makes the difference. The Bernabeu seems to be
to his liking. He always rises to the occasion and we expect him
to do the same again," Xavi said.
RUNS OF FORM
"Ronaldo, like all strikers, goes through runs of form.
Sometimes the ball goes in, other times it doesn't but it is
clear he is capable of making the difference."
Ronaldo is La Liga's leading scorer with 21 goals but his
anxious performances against Barca and a tense relationship with
some of Real's fans mean the world's most expensive player will
once again be the focus of attention.
"I have a routine before matches like most players," Ronaldo
told DT magazine. "I try to laugh, crack a few jokes, listen to
"I don't put myself under pressure. If you do this, things
go badly. I am this way whether I am preparing to play Barcelona
or any other team. My mental strength is very important."
Mourinho has a doubt over defender Pepe, who missed training
on Monday with a bruised thigh, but Angel di Maria is expected
to return to the squad.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola is without the injured David
Villa, Ibrahim Afellay and Pedro while Seydou Keita is away at
the Africa Cup of Nations.
On Tuesday third-tier Mirandes, who have knocked out La Liga
sides Villarreal and Racing Santander, visit Espanyol.
The 23-times Cup winners Athletic Bilbao are at home to 2003
winners Real Mallorca on Wednesday and the final first
leg will be a Valencia city derby on Thursday.
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