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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 16, 2012

Guardiola backs Barca to handle Real

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola believes his players can handle the pressure of a Copa del Rey quarter-final against great rivals Real Madrid despite trailing them in the Primera Division title race.

Barcelona are five points behind Madrid in the league table going into the first leg at the Bernabeu on Wednesday but expects his players to rise to the challenge.

Guardiola's side kept up their La Liga challenge with a 4-2 home win over Real Betis on Sunday as Madrid came from behind to win 2-1 at Real Mallorca the previous evening.

With the title race put to one side this week, Guardiola believes his side can cope against Jose Mourinho's team.

''It's a (cup) tie not a league game. I have not noticed any signs in my players that they do not want to win titles,'' said Guardiola in quotes reported by Marca.

''In these (type of) games (my players have) the desire to make a good game and can handle it.''

Midfielder Andres Iniesta is also looking forward to a competitive cup tie.

He told the club website: ''It will be a beautiful game for the spectators and for the players. I'm sure that it will be a beautiful and intense play-off.''

Madrid defender or midfielder Pepe has admitted they need to concentrate more in the early stages of games if they are to avoid having to fight back from conceding a lead.

Tomer Hemed had given Mallorca a first-half lead before late goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Maria Callejon earned Madrid victory in Saturday's league game.

''We're finding it a little hard to find focus at the start of our games and we'll have to fix this so that it doesn't happen again,'' Pepe told the Madrid website.

''We must change our mentality, rest and later on think about what we must do against Barcelona.''

Espanyol face cup outsiders Mirandes in their quarter-final opening leg at the Estadio Cornella-El Prat on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's side will have to watch out for their third-tier opponents who boast the top scorer in the competition with Pablo Infante, who has scored five times in the Copa del Rey this season. But with Espanyol's own Alvaro Vazquez on four cup goals so far the fans should be in for an exciting tie.

A goalless draw at Sevilla at the weekend kept both Pochettino's side and their opponents in the hunt for European places.

Mirandes lie six points clear at the top of the Segunda B Group II table following a 2-1 win at Guijuelo at the weekend.

Mallorca will be aiming to put their defeat to Madrid, which left them just above the relegation zone, out of their minds as they visit Athletic Bilbao in Wednesday's other tie.

Bilbao were 3-0 winners over Levante and will look to win the first leg against Mallorca to keep their bid going on two fronts as they lie fifth in the league table.

In the final first-leg tie on Thursday both Valencia and Levante will look to get back to winning ways at the Mestalla.

Third-placed Valencia and Levante, the surprise package of the league this season who currently lie fourth in the table, suffered defeats at the weekend.

Valencia were beaten 1-0 at home by Real Sociedad while neighbours Levante were second best in Bilbao.

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