Xavi hits out at Madrid tactics

Tuesday’s match is the fourth meeting between the Spanish rivals in

18 days and follows last Wednesday’s bad-tempered clash at the

Bernabeu, which Barca won 2-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi brace.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho and Barca boss Pep Guardiola were

involved in a war of words prior to that match and tempers

subsequently frayed on the pitch. Post-match, Mourinho hit out at

Barca and Guardiola, questioning the club’s agreement with Unicef,

calling the side’s last Champions League win a “scandal” and

claiming the Catalans receive support from UEFA in the big European

matches. Barca reported Madrid to UEFA the next day, with Los

Merengues responding in kind by lodging a complaint about the

Catalan club for anti-sporting conduct. And although both

complaints were on Monday dismissed by UEFA, the bad feeling

remains. Spain star Xavi has criticised Mourinho’s side for their

manipulation of the Bernabeu pitch both last Wednesday and prior to

the league game which kicked off this unique series of Clasico

clashes on April 16. Madrid deliberately let the grass grow long

and opted to keep the pitch dry for those matches in order to

stifle Barca’s slick passing game, a tactic which has angered Xavi.

“I believe people like to see attractive football on a good playing

surface, not long grass and hard pitches,” he said. “It’s

deplorable that there are no regulations in place for the state of

the pitches. “In 2011, there are still no regulations and that’s

regrettable.” Despite his reservations about the Bernabeu pitch,

Xavi hopes the talk will soon return to the football following the

off-field controversies of the last week. “I have the feeling that

we are talking very little about football and that makes me sad,”

he said. “I love playing against Real Madrid and I love playing in

these big games. They are very exciting challenges. It’s satisfying

to be in the semi-finals and a reason to be proud.” Barcelona won

their first ever European Cup at Wembley in 1992 and Xavi hopes his

side can repeat that triumph in London this season. “I watched it

at home because my parents didn’t let me go to Wembley,” he

recalled. “It was a great day for the club and now we have a chance

to go back there. We are up against an historical rival in Madrid

and it would be very special to beat them, to go back there for

another final.” Messi brace has given Barca the edge ahead of the

second leg but Xavi believe his side must dominate again to secure

their passage to the final. “We will try to dominate possession –

that’s the key. We have to be superior again,” he said. “We have to

be true to our philosophy.” Barcelona duo Gabriel Milito (thigh

strain) and Martin Montoya (fractured clavicle) are out of the game

but midfielder key Andres Iniesta returned to training on Sunday

and should feature. Real are without Pepe, who was sent off in the

ill-tempered first-leg, and Sergio Ramos who is also suspended

along with coach Jose Mourinho, who was ordered from the bench at

the Bernabeu and must watch the match from the stands.