Madrid - Gareth Bale dominated the
build-up to the first of two Clasicos in four days but Santiago Solari
and Ernesto Valverde each tried to instill calm ahead of an extraordinary
week for Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The two rivals take a 1-1
draw into the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday,
and will then reconvene on Saturday in La Liga, when Madrid hope to cut
their deficit at the top from nine points to six.
"It is not normal to play two games of this magnitude in
the same week," said Barcelona coach Valverde on Tuesday. "But it can
happen. Our intention is to separate them and focus on the one in front
of us. The one on Saturday is still far away."
"We have to just
keep doing what we have been doing," said Real boss Solari. "The first
leg was good for us, hopefully it can be again tomorrow."
Clasico always carries something extra, still more a double-header, that
will likely shape the mood of both clubs heading into the season's
Bale's bolshy reaction to scoring against Levante
last weekend has been the major topic of discussion, with Solari dodging
seven questions on the Welshman during his press conference on Tuesday.
refused to criticise, or defend, Bale's behaviour but has started him
only twice in the eight matches since the 29-year-old returned from a
calf injury in January.
"Look, I understand everyone wants to find a focus and you put the focus where it seems important," Solari said.
our focus is only on what we think is important. It is on the game, to
win tomorrow, to be united. Where others focus is up to them."
if he had spoken to Bale about the incident against Levante, Solari
said: "There are some things that stay in the dressing room and that
Bale was left out of the starting line-up at the
City of Valencia Stadium and after coming on to convert a second-half
penalty, remained stony-faced while brushing off attempts from
team-mates to congratulate him.
"He won us the game," said Solari after the 2-1 win. "The players can celebrate goals how they want, as long as they score."
It was the second time this month that Bale's response to a goal has caused controversy.
scoring in a 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid two weeks ago, Bale seemed to
make an obscene gesture towards the Atletico fans, which could still
see him banned for both upcoming games against Barca.
Junior has contributed to Bale's problems, his blistering form on the
left of Madrid's front three making him all-but indispensable from
"He has arrived with and
demonstrated his humility and his talent," Solari said. "The rest of the
team respects him and has always tried to help him. He brings talent,
effort, humility and a desire to learn."
It was Vinicius' cross
that led to Lucas Vazquez's goal in the first leg. "He is
unpredictable," said Valverde. "He brings gives them speed and has a lot
of self-confidence. He is having a great season."
Back to his best for Barca, meanwhile, is Lionel Messi,
who may be rested for the cup semi-final after scoring a stunning
hat-trick, the 50th of his career, against Sevilla on Sunday.
if Madrid's players fear Messi this week, Solari said: "For those that
compete at this level, this word does not exist in football."
midfielder Arthur Melo is back in training but more likely to return on
Saturday, while Valverde said he will make a late decision on
goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who was injured for the first leg.
start from the base that if we don't score, we have no chance,"
Valverde said. "We have to score. We have to protect ourselves too, but
we will go out to attack."