Karanka: We can still compete with Barca
Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka believes his side's 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final proved they are still able to compete with the La Liga leaders.
Barca maintain a 15-point lead over Real at the summit of the league, but Karanka claims the cup draw - achieved without Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Angel Di Maria - is a sign that the gap is not a true indication of the difference in quality between the two sides.
Defender Raphael Varane was Real's saviour, heading home a Mesut Ozil cross to cancel out Cesc Fabregas' opening goal for Barca and Karanka reserved significant praise for the Frenchman.
"The real difference between the teams you see when we play. It is quite competitive," Karanka said. "It was a great effort from all of the team because there were a number of players out of position. There will be time to prepare for the second leg, but the team are more than good enough.
"It is not possible to have done better than Rafa did. He cleared one off the line and scored the equaliser.Following his progression has been phenomenal because he also had his head in the right place. With the team we have started with, everyone has done very well and we are happy with the match."
Varane, 19, was a bright spark for Real in is first Clasico, showcasing his skills at both ends when he cleared a Xavi shot off the line to prevent Barca taking a 2-0 lead in the second half.
"It is a match I will always remember," Varane told AS. "It is a dream at 19 years of age. I am happy with my performance and that of the team. Now we need to continue like this. Mourinho told me to give everything that I had and at the end my team-mates congratulated me. It is not the best result, but it leaves the tie open."
Real travel to Camp Nou on February 27 for the return leg, with Barca seemingly in a better position to advance thanks to the home advantage. But stand-in manager Jordi Roura will be careful not to underestimate the strength of their opponents, who are essentially fighting only for cup success this season.
"I don't want to speak about punishment. Our lesson is that a draw at the Bernabeu is always a good result," Roura said. "For us it is a good result but nothing clear. In the second leg we will go out to win because in the first leg we have done the same. I said before that these games are very difficult and are resolved by very fine details. The tie will be decided in Barcelona.
"The media were saying that Madrid had a lot of players missing, but Madrid haven't been weak and we knew they wouldn't be. We knew Madrid are a strong and physical team and that they control the opening minutes more often than not. At the beginning, we had problems but after that I think we had control of the game - or as much as you can control against Madrid."