MADRID – Real Madrid will likely abandon its defensive strategy and go on the attack against Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has come under fire for his choice of tactics following last week’s 2-1 loss to Barcelona, with the Portuguese coach repeatedly jeered during a 4-1 league win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
But that victory displayed the potent attack available to Madrid, which leads Barcelona by five points in the Spanish league after scoring 67 goals in 19 games to complete the first half of the season.
Still, Mourinho did not apologize for Madrid’s approach to the first leg, which has polarized much of the Portuguese coach’s support, not only among fans but also the usually staunch Madrid press. On Sunday, Marca newspaper reported divisions inside the club’s dressing room while Mourinho’s name was jeered throughout the Bilbao match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium for the first time since his arrival in 2010.
“Whoever says the changing room is divided or that some kind of fracture exists is lying,” Sergio Ramos wrote on Twitter on Monday, a day after revelations of an argument between the Madrid defender and Mourinho were reported. “This is a great group that is well united, regardless what is said.”
Madrid’s attack could get a boost if Argentina forward Angel di Maria returns from injury.
Defender Pepe’s availability is uncertain after the Portugal international was benched against Bilbao following the fallout from his stamp on Lionel Messi’s hand in the first leg.
Madrid has won only one of its last 13 meetings against Barcelona — April’s Copa del Rey final — with nine losses over that period.
Barcelona is coming off a 4-1 league win at Malaga in which Messi notched his 10th career league hat trick for the European champions. Messi now has 36 goals in all competitions this season, while teammate Alexis Sanchez has also found his rhythm with the Spanish champions, the Chile forward scoring three goals in his last four games.
“They lead the league, they can still reach the semifinals of the Copa and they are into the next round of the Champions League. From an outside perspective, it’s hard to read whether or not they have problems,” Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said on Monday.
Also, Mirandes needs to beat Espanyol to become the first third division club to reach the semifinals since Fugueres in 2002. Mirandes trails 3-2 going into Tuesday’s match at its 6,000-capacity Andova Municipal stadium.
Meanwhile, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao hold comfortable leads going into their away return legs.
Valencia travels across town to Levante on Thursday holding a 4-1 advantage and Bilbao is 2-0 up ahead of its game at Mallorca on Wednesday.