Millennium Post

Fiesty Cup classico battle in line

Playmaker Kaka is hoping to be involved as Real Madrid try to salvage their season when they travel to face Barcelona in the second-leg of their Spanish Cup semifinal on Tuesday with the tie finely poised at 1-1.

The Brazilian scored and helped set-up Gonzalo Higuain’s winner as Madrid came from behind to win 2-1 at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday and having started three consecutive league games for the first time this season he said he can feel his confidence returning.

‘I don’t want to talk again about the return of Kaka but I feel much better,’ he told reporters. ‘I am there if the manager needs me and I need to be well-prepared for the crucial part of the season.’

Assistant boss Aitor Karanka also hinted after the game that the former Milan man could be involved on Tuesday and hailed his return to form in recent weeks.

 ‘I don’t know if he will start at Camp Nou but it is important that he is showing this level of performance, particularly for his confidence,’ he said.

‘We will see if he plays or not but he is playing well.’ Jose Mourinho will be able to recall Sergio Ramos after he was suspended at the weekend, whilst Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso returned to training on Sunday and are expected to be fit to travel.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Fabio Coentrao are also expected to return after starting Saturday’s match on the bench.

Barcelona assistant boss Jordi Roura meanwhile also has a selection dilemma after David Villa and Cristian Tello produced strong second-half performances as their team also came from a goal down to win 2-1 against Sevilla on Saturday.

Villa scored the equaliser after being moved into a more central area to accommodate Tello, who had replaced the ineffective Alexis Sanchez at half-time, and the Spanish under-21 international set-up Lionel Messi to score the winning goal which moved Barca 15 points clear at the top.

Neither Villa nor Tello have been regular starters this season, with the likes of Sanchez, Pedro and Cesc Fabregas being preferred for the bigger games, but Roura refused to rule out the possibility that both could be selected on Tuesday.

‘David is a very important player for us,’ he said. ‘We will follow his physical progression but he is decisive player and he, just like Tello, has a chance to start.

‘Tello played very well because Sevilla were well set-up and closing all the space in behind. He gives us more pace and presence in one-on-one situations and is more decisive but it depends on the game.

‘Cristian is working hard and he is offering the team something as well. He is a young player and just needs to keep working.’

However, despite holding a 16-point lead over the champions in La Liga, Barca don’t have a great recent record against Madrid, winning only one of the last six encounters between the two.


MADRID: Barcelona will not play for a goalless draw in Tuesday’s Spanish Cup semifinal return with Real Madrid even though it would be enough after stalemate in the opening leg, assistant coach Jordi Roura said on Monday. ‘We never speculate on the outcome of a match  Barca always are set up to attack and tomorrow, come what may, our intention is to go out and win,’ said Roura, standing in for coach Tito Vilanova, who is undergoing cancer treatment in New York. The Spanish Cup would be a mere consolation prize but Mourinho is still treating it with the utmost seriousness. On Monday, he said that Barca will always be a stiff test whatever the circumstances -- even after their demoralising showing in Milan. ‘There is no good moment when two great teams clash. Barca are always an important rival. From that point of view that is immaterial,’ said Mourinho.
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