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Guardiola claims Madrid are favourites

Published: Sunday 24 April 2011, 18.30CET
With injuries mounting and the Copa del Rey final loss fresh in his mind, FC Barcelona's Josep Guardiola thinks Real Madrid CF will take "the tag of favourites" into their semi-final meeting.
by Paul Bryan
from Madrid
Guardiola claims Madrid are favourites
Josep Guardiola thinks Madrid deserve to be favourites for their tie against Barcelona ©Getty Images
Published: Sunday 24 April 2011, 18.30CET

Guardiola claims Madrid are favourites

With injuries mounting and the Copa del Rey final loss fresh in his mind, FC Barcelona's Josep Guardiola thinks Real Madrid CF will take "the tag of favourites" into their semi-final meeting.

Despite seeing his team maintain their eight-point Liga lead over Real Madrid CF this weekend, FC Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola expressed concerns ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against José Mourinho's reinvigorated side.

At the Bernabéu, you must always take the game extremely seriously while going in search of goals so that you don't get swamped by the occasion
Josep Guardiola

Barcelona's 2-0 home triumph against CA Osasuna on Saturday came courtesy of David Villa's first club goal in 12 games and Lionel Messi's 50th strike for the side this season. However, with Gabriel Milito (calf) and Maxwell (groin) doubtful for Wednesday after joining a defensive injury list which already includes Adriano and Carles Puyol, the Azulgrana coach said his charges were not "in the best of condition" ahead of their trip to the capital.

Indeed, while Madrid followed their 1-0 extra-time Copa del Rey win against Barcelona with a 6-3 dismantling of third-placed Valencia CF, Guardiola described his side's performance against Osasuna as "weak", despite the positive outcome.

"With three days to recover from a final that lasted 120 minutes and with the Champions League semi-finals around the corner, the initial plan was to avoid playing those who usually do," the 40-year-old explained after making seven changes to the team which started Wednesday's cup showpiece.

"We have to look [positively] at the result we gained tonight, but that's about all." Conceding that Madrid had "earned the tag of favourites" going into the third meeting between the teams in less than a fortnight, Guardiola insisted his team would nonetheless remain true to the style that has earned them such widespread admiration.

"We believe in ourselves and we feel more comfortable going in search of opportunities as opposed to defending what we have," he added. "At the Bernabéu, you must always take the game extremely seriously while going in search of goals so that you don't get swamped by the occasion. We'll obviously be going there looking to get a good result."

Mourinho, meanwhile, said he was "very happy," after a Gonzalo Higuaín hat-trick, a double from Kaká and a Karim Benzema effort helped see off Valencia. "My team won well while playing some spectacular football," the Portuguese tactician explained. "The three points keep us fighting for a title that is still mathematically within our grasp. For that, I am very happy."

Unbeaten since their home defeat by Real Sporting de Gijón on 2 April, Madrid are now in vibrant mood. "It's been a few weeks since that bad result against Sporting and the feeling within the group is good," added Mourinho. "After some unforgettable games [against Barcelona], it would have been easy for everyone here to lose concentration. But that didn't happen and we went about our business in Valencia in a very professional manner. We'll head back to base now but not to train – not even to think about football. Our preparation [for the first leg] begins on Monday."

Last updated: 25/04/11 11.03CET

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