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Moisés Llorens | 25/02/2013
Speaking to the press in the run-up to the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid, stand-in coach Jordi Roura looked ahead to Tuesday evening's encounter, and appeared to send a message to referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco, who will take charge of the crunch clash.
Undiano Mallenco was the man in the middle for the Copa del Rey final in 2011 between Madrid and Barça (which Real won), and Roura noted: "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 how many things he let go in the Copa del Rey final. But that is just a statistical matter. We have to wish him luck. We are only concerned about Madrid."
Much of the media spotlight surrounding recent Clásicos has focused on the on and off-field confrontations between Real and Barcelona players, and Roura called for fair play: "All Barça-Madrid games are very hard, intense matches. You can only ask that the game be played in the correct spirit."
Asked for his thoughts on how both sides would approach the match, Roura expected both teams to be on the offensive: "They have to score and we are convinced that they will come out to attack us. That's what we expect. It'll be a very difficult game, but the team is focused. We never speculate, we don't know how to do that. We always look to attack our opponent."
Speculation certainly surrounds the Barcelona forward line. Striker David Villa hit Barça's equaliser against Sevilla on Saturday and, asked if he and absent coach Tito Vilanova - with whom the temporary coach has remained in continual contact on team selection - were considering accommodating a traditional centre-forward, Roura replied: "We have looked at everything and it could be an important alternative. We don't rule it out. It all depends on the game. We have various tactical options."
While there is discussion around the Barcelona strike force, the Catalan outfit's defence has also provoked debate. Having failed to keep a clean sheet in 11 consecutive games, Roura expressed his intention to shore up the frail back-line, saying: "We know that some of the goals we've conceded have been directly down to us, and we will try to correct that."
On his side's home advantage for the second leg, the Camp Nou coach saw cause for optimism, insisting: "I prefer to play these games at home. It shows that we have done our job well if the decisive match in a knock-out tie is at our stadium. We're having a good season, and it would be a big step if we got through this tie against Madrid. [But] there is never a favourite in the Clásico."
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi, Barcelona's match-winner at the weekend, has publicly insisted that he does not need to be rested for less important games. Roura responded to questions about this, saying: "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."