Roura hoping for fair Clasico
Barcelona stand-in coach Jordi Roura says he hopes Real Madrid's physical approach stays within the laws of the game in Tuesday's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou.
Last month's first game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu finished 1-1, with much of the media attention afterwards focused on supposed rough challenges by Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso, as well as alleged aggressive comments from Barca's Lionel Messi to Arbeloa and Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka afterwards.
Roura told reporters after training on Monday morning that Clasicos were always hard, tough games but that they should always be played in a sporting spirit.
"Clasicos are always important for the two teams, and have a special relevance," Roura said. "All these games are intense, often tough. But we hope it does not go too far, and stays within the sporting limits."
Roura said pointedly, however, that Barca knew what to expect from Tuesday's referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco, who officiated Madrid's hard-fought 1-0 extra-time win in 2011's Copa final.
"The referee is who he is, and we do not judge the officials, but it is true that our [win] percentages are worse with him than with others," he said. "We remember the permissiveness he showed in the Copa final. [But] that is just a statistical matter. We must wish him luck. We are only concerned about Madrid."
A 0-0 on Tuesday evening would see Barcelona progress on away goals to May's final against either Atletico Madrid or Sevilla. Roura, though, said he expected goals as both sides would press forward.
"We will not take chances with the result, because we do not know how to do that," he said. "Our style is always attacking. Madrid have to score and we are convinced that from the start they will come to look for us up front. That is what they have been doing lately."
Barca head coach Tito Vilanova reportedly watched Barca's 2-1 La Liga win over Sevilla live on television from New York, where he is receiving medical attention, and also viewed Madrid's similar last-gasp 2-1 victory at Deportivo La Coruna the same day. A Barca cameraman was apparently at Estadio Riazor on Saturday to film particular moves or elements of Madrid's play, which would not be evident from the usual TV coverage of the game.
Vilanova and Roura's major tactical decision is now whether to include David Villa, who scored his side's equaliser on Saturday, in the starting line-up against Madrid. This could involve a reshuffle with Andres Iniesta dropping from the left wing into midfield and Cesc Fabregas missing out.
Playing a more traditional centre-forward such as Villa was an option for the game, Roura said.
"We have looked at everything and it could be an important variable," he said. "We do not rule it out. It all depends on each game. We have various tactical options."
Messi's goal against Sevilla means he has now scored in 15 consecutive La Liga games, but ahead of Madrid more attention has been focused on Milan's success in bottling him up during last Wednesday's 2-0 Champions League last 16 first-leg loss at San Siro.
Asked whether he thought the Argentine - who said this weekend he did not need to be rested - was not at top physical shape at present, Roura answered ironically.
"Lucky for us if he is not on top form," he said. "Everyone can always improve, but with the season he is having it seems out of place to be questioning him. The person best placed to speak about Messi's physical state is Messi himself. He always likes to play and I do not think he is more tired than at the same stage of other seasons."
The defensive issues which have seen Barca concede in their last 11 games in all competitions were more worth of study, Roura admitted.
"We have studied the goals conceded," he said. "Some were down to the merits of our opponents, others caused by our own mistakes."