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Barcelona and Madrid set for Clásico encounter

Published: Thursday 19 April 2012, 22.07CET's reporters in Spain offer their views and those of some leading figures ahead of Saturday's potential title decider between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF.

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Published: Thursday 19 April 2012, 22.07CET

Barcelona and Madrid set for Clásico encounter's reporters in Spain offer their views and those of some leading figures ahead of Saturday's potential title decider between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF.

View from Barcelona, Graham Hunter
It is the Clásico again, José Mourinho again and a decisive moment for Josep Guardiola and his team – but nothing will be done differently. Not because of the pressure, the defeat at Stamford Bridge, nor even the looming prospect of an even bigger match on Tuesday when Chelsea FC visit the Camp Nou.

Even though time is tight given FC Barcelona flew back to Spain on Thursday morning, Guardiola will still find a chance to take to his bunker. It is a small area in the engine room of the Camp Nou – no natural light, a couple of family pictures and a lock on the door. Guardiola knows Real Madrid CF intimately but will watch the DVDs of their recent performances over and again until he has his eureka moment. He admits it is such moments that make his job worthwhile.

Can Barcelona achieve superiority of numbers and creative possession in midfield? Can Lionel Messi drag Madrid's defensive quartet of Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Pepe and Sergio Ramos into areas which benefit the home side? Can the Spanish champions finish more crisply than in London this week? These are the challenges for Guardiola and his side.

View from Madrid, Paul Bryan
The luxury of a four-point lead allows Madrid to be more circumspect than their rivals. A sixth loss to Barcelona in Mourinho's two seasons at the Santiago Bernabéu would be most unwelcome but not disastrous, while a draw would be celebrated as a victory with just four games remaining. The Portuguese is therefore expected to err on the side of caution, though there is still much to ponder.

With the domestic standings as they are, many Spanish media commentators believe Mourinho must make Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against FC Bayern München the priority. Resting the influential but clearly tiring Mesut Özil thus seems inevitable, while Gonzalo Higuaín starting as the lone striker ahead of Karim Benzema is also likely.

In past attempts to stifle Guardiola's quick-passing, quick-thinking team, the Merengues have played with three defensive midfielders protecting a four-man defence, but this has curbed an area in which Madrid excel perhaps more than any other side: the counterattack. With their opponents set to play the only way they know how, and with more urgency than ever, the Liga's top scorers will know their pace and hunger to surge forward can reap rewards at the home of the champions.

"It's been tricky for Madrid to beat Barça, especially in the Guardiola era, but I believe this is the moment to do so."

Former Madrid forward Hugo Sánchez

"Barça are going to win, I'm convinced of it. The Liga can't end with four games to play, it deserves an emotional finish."
Former Barça forward Julio Salinas

"It's Madrid's turn to win, although a draw will do; that's the advantage they have. I don't see Mourinho going there with the plan of attacking."
Former Barça, Madrid midfielder and ex-Madrid coach Bernd Schuster

"Defeat by Chelsea won't have any bearing on Saturday's game. We are facing two games in a very short space of time in the coming days but we feel we are ready."
Barça midfielder Andrés Iniesta

Last updated: 05/12/13 6.50CET

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