The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Real plot to slay bitter rivals

Madrid: Humility isn’t something readily associated with League leaders Real Madrid when the subject of their bitter rivals Barcelona comes up and it hasn’t been much in evidence prior to their clash at Real’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Saturday.

“We are going to humiliate Barcelona,” bragged Real’s Spanish international defender Ivan Helguera on Thursday. “At least 2-0. I think they have got their minds more on the Champions League than on this game.”

Barcelona coach Radomir Antic, who may rest several players in anticipation of the visit of Juventus on Tuesday in the Champions League quarter final second leg, confirmed he believed the Champions League fixture was more important.

If Antic is looking ahead to his last realistic chance of qualifying for European competition next season, some of his players are not prepared to let their guard down despite having lost their last two League games and being down in 12th.

“We are the equal of Real,” commented Barcelona’s Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, who has never tasted victory in the Bernabeu.

The last time Barcelona won was in November 1997, the season before Kluivert arrived at Barcelona.

Real’s main aim on Saturday will be to preserve their three point lead at the top of the Spanish first division.

The European champions have 60 points from their 29 games. Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad both have 57 points with Deportivo lying in second thanks to a superior goal difference.

The Galicians will try to keep up the pressure on Real with a victory over Sevilla on Sunday, but will be without their injured striker Diego Tristan.

The Spanish international torn a hamstring on Tuesday playing in a benefit match and will be out for at least a month.

Meanwhile, Real striker Ronaldo, who cemented his reputation as one of the game’s leading players during his spectacular season at Barcelona seven years ago, says he has little sympathy for his former team’s domestic problems.

“I think it is unlikely, but it could happen,” he told the Real Madrid website on Friday. “In European football there are quite a few cases of historic sides that have dropped down into the second division,” he said of Barcelona’s chances of going down to Division II.

When asked if he would like to see his former team relegated, the World and European Player of the Year commented: “I’m not really bothered.

“Real are a bigger team than Barcelona, although Barca are a big team too, but historically they just haven’t enjoyed the success or the trophies that Real have.

“I have a special motivation to score in a big game against Barcelona and I am really looking forward to doing so,” he said.

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