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Vilanova: Messi position irrelevant

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has played down the significance of how talisman Lionel Messi is utilised during the Clasico with Real Madrid.

Messi has been deployed in various attacking roles this term but Vilanova claims Real are equipped to counter the Argentine’s menace up front.

“It does not matter where Messi plays,” Vilanova told reporters. “Madrid will know by now how we play.”

Vilanova also believes neither side deserve to be considered favourites to win Sunday’s clash at Camp Nou.

“Barcelona-Real Madrid never has clear favourites, regardless of where the teams each lie in the table. We’ve not beaten them all the time by a 5-0 scoreline,” he said.

“They have a very good squad, costing many millions more than ours.

“All I’m focused on is claiming a seventh-consecutive victory, something no one else has achieved before.”

Past encounters between the two heavyweights have often proven tense, but Vilanova, who was involved in a physical altercation with Real counterpart Jose Mourinho last season, believes this game will be remembered for the spectacle on the pitch.

“Tomorrow, you will only see a football game, nothing more. While there is a rivalry, this is related to sports, and has nothing to do with politics,” he said.

“I’ve seen what has been broadcast on television [regarding the infamous eye-poke by Mourinho], but I can say I am comfortable with my behaviour. I can say nothing more in that regard.”

The 43-year-old has lost captain Carles Puyol for two months after the veteren dislocated his elbow in the Champions League encounter against Benfica, although the defence could be buoyed by the return of Gerard Pique.

“We will only judge how well Pique’s muscles respond tomorrow, before the game,” Vilanova said.

“He will make an effort to be ready. Any team would otherwise feel the absence of players of Puyol’s and Pique’s calibre.”

Sat 6 October, 2012
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