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Feb 27, 2013

Real Madrid stars primed for big week

Following Real Madrid's emphatic win at the Camp Nou, Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo are looking ahead to a huge week in the club's season which sees them take on Barcelona again before they travel to face Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday.

• Hunter: Dominant Madrid progress
• Blog: Flagging Barca stunned
• Blog: Madrid kick into gear

Immediately after the crushing 3-1 win over Barca in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, Real Madrid captain Casillas and star forward Ronaldo turned their sights to Saturday's upcoming La Liga clash between the two Spanish giants at the Bernabeu.

Madrid eased through to a final against either Atletico Madrid or Sevilla via two goals from Ronaldo and a Raphael Varane header, while Jordi Alba's late strike for Barca was little consolation for the Catalans, who looked low on energy and ideas throughout.

Casillas, who travelled for the game despite being out of action with a broken hand, took the post-game press conference and told reporters that he expected Barca's players to be hurt and wanting revenge, but that Madrid were heading into Saturday's game in front of their own fans with extra confidence.

"I know several players from Barcelona and I know they are competitive," Casillas said. "We have to be aware that in La Liga, when we do not win, the fans suffer. It is our duty to fight in every match. We have just played a very complete two-legged tie, we were better tactically than Barcelona, and that will motivate us for the coming games."

The goalkeeper also believes that the 16-point gap between leaders Barcelona and third-placed Real Madrid in the Primera Division table could be eaten into.

"There is an unreal gap, but Barca have been the better team," he said. "We want to cut it to 13 points and then see what happens. Barca are competitive, although they have not had much fortune this week. Things have got a bit tangled up in La Liga, but we must keep fighting and cutting the gap."

Casillas said Madrid had played better against 'bigger' opposition this season, and would show that again against Barcelona on Saturday, and in next Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg at Manchester United.

"I hope this can be a turning point," he said. "Now we want to play a brilliant role in the Champions League and in La Liga too. We will go to Manchester with the same plan. We must bring this to Old Trafford."

Speaking to Spanish TV station Canal Plus, double goalscorer Ronaldo said he was looking forward to the weekend, while accepting Madrid had focused more on the cup competitions recently.

"There is always great motivation to beat Barcelona," Ronaldo said. "We are at home and have to keep this going. La Liga is less important because we have dropped a lot of points. We have had to concentrate more on La Copa and the Champions League, but without any doubt we will go out to do as well as possible."

The Portuguese international said Madrid's record at the Camp Nou was now very good, and suggested that after two-and-a-half seasons under Mourinho they had worked out how to play Barcelona.

"We have done well here lately," he said. "We play almost better than at home. It is a matter of confidence, it is good for us, and most players like to play in the Camp Nou. We have adapted to their style of play. The nightmare of the 0-5 [in November 2010] is gone now. From the first to the last minute we were serious, with a good attitude. We played better than Barca. To score three times at the Camp Nou is extremely difficult."

Ronaldo's first-half penalty, after he was taken down by Gerard Pique, and calmly taken second-half strike, when Barca keeper Jose Pinto had saved from Angel Di Maria, means he became the first ever player to score in six successive clasicos.

"It is really something," he said. "It will be in the history books of Spanish football. I am able to score the goals thanks to the help of my team-mates."

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