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Real Madrid v Barcelona Champions League Preview

A week after leading Real Madrid to Copa del Rey glory against Barcelona, José Mourinho is anticipating a “different game” when the arch-rivals contest the first leg of a much-anticipated all-Spanish Champions League semi-final. Though his team won that most recent meeting 1-0 thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s header, the Madrid coach says “my opinion is that there are no favourites” for the tie. Opposite number Josep Guardiola, meanwhile, fears the hosts are in their best form of the season.

José Mourinho, Madrid coach
I don’t know how Barcelona are feeling at the moment, I only know how we are. We would have been in the same state of mind even if we had lost the Copa del Rey, although it was obviously fantastic to win it. The day after that we were all relaxed and focused again, ready for our next Liga match.

Before coming here today I told someone I am the same coach that lost 5-0 to Barcelona a few months ago. I haven’t changed. I don’t possess a magic potion to beat them; I only know that it takes hard work. Since that defeat we played a great game against them in the Liga and drew 1-1. We then won 1-0 in the Copa del Rey final [after extra time] but this is a different game and anything can happen.

My opinion is that there are no favourites in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. We are two rivals who know each other well; two rivals with a lot of history between us. We both have players who know how to play in important games and who have had success.

I am a normal motivator. Like anyone, I have to motivate myself first.
I told my players before the final of the Copa del Rey that there was someone called Albert, Albert Einstein, who said that there is a force more powerful than steam, electricity and atomic energy: will. And this guy Albert was not stupid.

If we play well, create great chances, are the better team and finish with a draw then obviously I will be happy. If they do all of those things and we draw then I’ll be happy, too.

Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach
Tomorrow at 20.45 we will go out there looking to win. I congratulate Real Madrid for their victory in the Copa del Rey, which they won deservedly. Andrés Iniesta is out of the game but we hope he will be back for the return. My players know there are no excuses here. If we win it’s because we are better; we will defend that idea until the end.

We are facing a team who are in their form of the season. We are in a UEFA Champions League semi-final and for us it’s a big task facing Real Madrid, one of the best teams in Europe. It’s a great challenge as we are just one step away from Wembley. We will look to do the best we can. We have come here to try to beat a team that has won nine European Cups.

I’m hugely satisfied to be at this stage of the competition, it’s a success. If you come here to defend they will roll over you because the pitch is very wide and they have very good players. We will compete as we know how and with what we have.

Team news

Sami Khedira misses out with a right adductor tear. Lassana Diarra, who returned from a hip complaint at the weekend, may well be the man to provide cover in defensive midfield. Emmanuel Adebayor (groin) and Ángel Dí María (bruised right knee) have also shaken off knocks and make the final cut. Fernando Gago remains absent with a torn adductor.

Barça are also without a key midfield player after Guardiola confirmed that Iniesta’s calf injury will prevent him from playing. Maxwell also misses out, though Carles Puyol trained in the capital after overcoming knee and hamstring problems and will captain the side. Gabriel Milito (right calf) had to be withdrawn midway through the second half at the weekend but trained on the eve of this game, while Adriano will be out for a month having torn a muscle in his right thigh in the Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona are really struggling with injuries at the moment, especially in defence, and this is something that I am sure Real Madrid will try and take advantage of. The loss of Iniesta is a bog loss in the middle of the park, as Xavi is not as effective with Iniesta alongside him.

It will be really interesting to see how Jose Mourinho approaches this first leg. In the two clasico’s recently, Madrid have been very defensively minded and have looked to hit Barca on the counter-attack. Great tactics if Real are away from home, but tomorrow they will be at home and I think that Madrid will attack a little more this game. And that will leave them open the Barca counter-attack.

The tie cannot be won tomorrow, but it can be lost, and I expect a tactical match here from both coaches.

Score: Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 1

What do you think the score will be?