Barcelona have taken the plaudits for their
sparkling displays of attacking football this season but Real Madrid are
determined to knock the Catalans off their pedestal when they meet at
the Bernabeu on Saturday.
"People are talking all the time about how much better Barca are than us
and about what a great level they are playing at," says Real midfielder
"But if we beat them that will show that we are just as strong and it
will also give us a major psychological boost."
"We've put together some good results even though we haven't played as
well as the fans might have wanted. We've shown that we have a
competitive squad and we've done well despite having so many injuries,"
"Playing at the Bernabeu has never been a very appetising prospect for
Vanderlei Luxemburgo's Real side have certainly not set the world alight
with their performances so far this season, but despite suffering a
string of injuries to key players they have managed to stay in touch at
the top of the table.
They have ground out consecutive league wins over Real Betis and Real
Zaragoza and will be boosted by the return from injury of striker
Ronaldo, playmaker Zinedine Zidane, Brazilian forward Julio Baptista and
influential centre back Ivan Helguera.
England captain David Beckham did not complete Thursday's training
session because of a recurrence of back pain but the club said his
participation in the "clasico" was not in doubt.
However, even with a near full-strength side, Real still face a daunting
task if they are to tame a rampant Barcelona.
Frank Rijkaard's side have notched up 24 goals in their last six games
in all competitions and have recaptured the sort of form that saw them
romp to the league title last season.
Ronaldinho is back to his exuberant best, playmaker Xavi has marshalled
the attack in masterful fashion and Samuel Eto'o has an even more
voracious appetite for goals than last season.
Almost as impressive has been the contribution of Argentine youngster
Despite being embroiled in a complex bureaucratic wrangle over his
citizenship the 18-year-old has shown just why so many see him as the
true successor to Diego Maradona with a series of dazzling performances
for Los Azulgranas (blue and scarlets).
On Saturday the Argentine will get his chance to pit his skills against
Real Madrid counterpart Robinho in one of the game's most eagerly
awaited personal duels.
There will be a distinctly Brazilian flavour to this year's clashes with
the presence of a host of Robinho's compatriots in the ranks of both
Barca have six Brazilian-born players, while Real, coached by former
Brazil boss Luxemburgo, have four in their squad.
Barca coach Frank Rijkaard, whose side won at the Bernabeu in his first
season in charge of the Catalans, remains as circumspect as ever about
their chances of another victory on enemy territory.
"I'm a little bit upset about the attitude of some of the media who are
only talking about a Barcelona victory," the Dutchman told Radio Marca.
"Historically, (the Bernabeu) is a very difficult ground for us to play
at. We are playing against a great team who have got a lot of pride and
will want to do all they can to please their fans.
"It will be a very interesting game between two rivals. There is bound
to be an intense atmosphere but I just hope it will be a great spectacle
for the world of football."