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Posted: 25 Apr 2011 10:48 PM PDT

Ramos wants Bernabeu faithful to play big role in sinking Barca

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 13:37:00

Football

OLE! Ramos demonstrates his skills with a bullfighter's cape after Real won the Copa del Rey

MADRID: Rightback Sergio Ramos told Real Madrid fans to "score the first goal" in their firstleg semifinal against Barcelona at Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday (2.45am).

Real go into the clash in buoyant mood after beating Barca 1-0 in the Copa del Rey final last week before a much-changed side enjoyed a 6-3 thrashing of Valencia in the Primera Division on Saturday.

But Ramos warned the Champions League tie would be another matter and urged Real fans to create a big atmosphere at the Bernabeu.

"It's the fans who have to score the first goal for us. Every visiting side at the Bernabeu have to be wary of the atmosphere. They must really be aware of what it means to play at a stadium like ours," he said.

Despite the massive win over Valencia, Real remain eight points behind Barca in the Primera Liga table and this means the Champions League is their more realistic chance of another trophy this season as manager Jose Mourinho bids to guide a third club to European football's biggest prize.

Ramos said the way the team performed in Valencia despite Mourinho making nine changes with Thursday's match in mind shows the unity in the squad as they focus on their goals.

"It is more united than ever. We are all extremely excited about the times we are living. The Champions League is a very important competition and it is at stake for us. Now is when we must show everyone how excited we are."

But Ramos is making no bold predictions of victory, admitting instead to a genuine excitement about the fixture.

"Both Barca and Real have great players and no one knows what will happen," he said.

"We all know of the responsibility we have and what it takes to defend these crests. We will have to give our all to win."

Meanwhile, midfielder Kaka believes Real have the most important resource of them all ahead of the clash with Barca — manager Mourinho.

Kaka hails the Portuguese and feels he could make all the difference on Thursday.

"I'm happy. I feel good. Mourinho has been 10 (out of 10), he has been very good to me. He has been helping me a lot. He is using me well and I am available to lend a hand," he told the Brazilian Press.

Kaka is no stranger to Champions League success having played in two finals with his former team AC Milan.

He lost in 2005 but two years later he won the competition with the Italian giants, and once again faces another important discourse in the battle for Europe.

"It was a big week. My birthday, two goals, the birth of my daughter. The season finale is still very good. We have won a title (Copa del Rey) and now we measure ourselves against Barca twice in the Champions League.

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Attack on Iniesta's mind

Posted: 25 Apr 2011 10:43 PM PDT

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 13:36:00

BARCELONA: Midfield ace Andres Iniesta is ready to take the offensive for Barcelona in their first-leg semifinal clash against bitter rivals Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday as he eyes taking a big step towards the Wembley final.

"I don't dream of scoring legendary goals, but I dream of being at Wembley," said Iniesta.

"I don't care about scoring goals or not being able to play, as long as we get to the final. Now our only thoughts are these. The team are not thinking of anything else."

The 26-year-old World Cup winner with Spain, believes his side have options and advantages which could mount to obtaining a coup against newly-crowned Copa del Rey winners.

"We'll win because we do not do anything else. We should not look at Real but only ourselves," he said.

"We have to counter their strengths. There are many circumstances and it will depend on how the game goes. We must remember that there are 180 minutes to play for.

"We will play with a positive mindset and with the knowledge that we are not far from the final."

Barca central defender Gerard Pique says the Copa del Rey loss to Real Madrid last week does not mark the end of a cycle for the Spanish champions.

"Losing the cup final against Real was very hard for us as we disappointed a lot of fans. However, losing is part of the game and you have to accept that these things happen," Pique told El Pais.

"This is by no means the end of a cycle though. We might have lost the Copa final, but we're still sitting in pole position to win Primera Liga. And we'll take on Real again in the semifinals of the Champions League. It's competitions like this that really mark a cycle.

"I really like playing at the Bernabeu. I can't explain why, but I really enjoy a hostile crowd. There are players out there who fail to cope with jeers from the crowd, but it only motivates me.

"Winning at Real is a unique feeling," he said.

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