A "beautiful encounter" awaits when Real Madrid CF face FC Barcelona but for Merengues defender Marcelo the emphasis must be on substance over style with Wembley in sight.
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FC Barcelona's stylish football continues to draw plaudits aplenty but for Real Madrid CF defender Marcelo the focus will be on substance when they host Josep Guardiola's side in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
Ahead of what will be the third meeting between the Liga rivals in less than a fortnight, the Brazilian international left-back says there are "no favourites in a game of this magnitude" despite José Mourinho's charges holding a slight psychological advantage thanks to last week's Copa del Rey final triumph. "Encounters of this kind are very tough but beautiful to play in and any player would love to take part," Marcelo said.
Now in his fifth season at Madrid, the 22-year-old has played an integral role in the Merengues' run to the last four, appearing in every game and registering his first UEFA Champions League goal in the round of 16 win against Olympique Lyonnais. Admitting that he has benefited hugely from Mourinho's advice, the former Fluminense FC man concedes he still has much to learn.
"I'm a more mature player now," he said in front of the assembled media in the Spanish capital. "My play is more aggressive and for that I am happy but I still have to continue getting better every day."
The former futsal player has formed part of a defensive unit which is yet to concede a European goal at the Santiago Bernabéu this term. An important member of that back four, Ricardo Carvalho, misses the first leg through suspension, leaving Mourinho to decide whether to field compatriot Pepe at the back or continue to deploy him in a holding midfield role.
"Pepe is a phenomenal player, everyone knows that," said Marcelo. "Wherever the manager puts him he will play excellently, but personally I think he is best as a central defender."
Madrid have frustrated their last-four opponents in their two recent encounters and Marcelo makes it clear that progressing to the Wembley showpiece is the most important thing. "I would prefer to win not playing well than to lose while doing so," he added. "If we can win playing well then that's great but the most important thing is to get the victory."