x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Real Madrid can compete with Barcelona says coach after cup draw

The two Spanish giants, separated in the Primera Liga by 15 points, drew 1-1 in the first semi-final of the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil, right, goes on the attack against Barcelona.
Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil, right, goes on the attack against Barcelona.

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka believes Real Madrid's 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final shows there remains little to choose between the sides despite their current Primera Liga positions.

Barca hold a 15-point advantage over the champions in league, but Karanka was delighted with how his side competed last night's - even without the likes of Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Angel Di Maria.

He said: "The real difference between the teams you see when we play. It is quite competitive.

"It was a great effort from all of the team because there were a number of players out of position.

"There will be time to prepare for the second leg, but the team are more than good enough."

Raphael Varane was Madrid's hero, heading home Mesut Ozil's cross nine minutes from time to cancel out Cesc Fabregas' 50th-minute opener.

Karanka was full of praise for the young Frenchman, who also cleared a goalbound shot from Xavi off the line in the first half and produced a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle to prevent Fabregas adding a second when the score was 1-0.

"It is not possible to have done better than Rafa did," Karanka said. "He cleared one off the line and scored the equaliser.

"Following his progression has been phenomenal because he also had his head in the right place. With the team we have started with, everyone has done very well and we are happy with the match."

Varane himself described the experience as a "dream" and believes all is to play for in the return leg on February 27.

He told AS: "It is a match I will always remember. It is a dream at 19 years of age.

"I am happy with my performance and that of the team. Now we need to continue like this. Mourinho told me to give everything that I had and at the end my team-mates congratulated me. It is not the best result, but it leaves the tie open."

Barcelona stand-in manager Jordi Roura, meanwhile, was also content with the result, although he does not believe it will give his team a big advantage for the second leg.

He said: "I don't want to speak about punishment. Our lesson is that a draw at the Bernabeu is always a good result.

"For us it is a good result but nothing clear. In the second leg we will go out to win because in the first leg we have done the same.

"I said before that these games are very difficult and are resolved by very fine details. The tie will be decided in Barcelona."

Roura insisted the Catalans were not surprised by the hosts' high-tempo start to the game, and felt Barca adjusted well after a shaky opening.

"The media were saying that Madrid had a lot of players missing, but Madrid haven't been weak and we knew they wouldn't be," he added. "We knew Madrid are a strong and physical team and that they control the opening minutes more often than not.

"At the beginning, we had problems but after that I think we had control of the game - or as much as you can control against Madrid."