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17.12.2007 11:20

Iniesta: “The Real Madrid game will be very special but not decisive”

David Puig

Iniesta made his 200th appearance for Barça on Saturday and is now looking forward to his seventh outing against Madrid. In this interview he discusses the keys to this special clash and highlights the good form of the team as shown against Valencia.

In an interview with Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat, Iniesta stresses that Barça is in good form ahead of the Real Madrid match. However, while he recognises the importance of the three points, he emphasises that the result won’t be decisive in the race for the league title. But whatever the circumstances, this is always a very special match, particularly for the fans and the home-grown talent in the team.

You’re going into the Real Madrid game after breaking the negative run of away form against Valencia in the Mestalla.

goletoo.jpg“We’ve looked a different team in the last few away matches and against Valencia we achieved a victory that will boost our confidence ahead of the Real Madrid game before the Christmas break. A win for us would even things up at the top of the table”.

A lot has been said about why Barça had only won once away from home before the Valencia match. Why do you think this has been so?

“I’ve always thought there wasn’t any one single reason. When things don’t go well there are different reasons. The most important thing is that we kept our nerve and our self-belief. We’ve finally ended this negative run away from home and I hope things go even better”.

You played your 200th match for the FC Barcelona first team against Valencia. Did you realise that? What does it mean to a player only 23 years old to have played so many matches with Barça?

“The truth is I don’t keep track of all the matches I’ve played but I’m delighted to reach this number at the age of 23 in a club like FC Barcelona, where it’s very difficult to play. I suppose you only really give importance to these numbers after you retire from playing. Now it seems that everything is very nice and even easy, but the fact is it’s very difficult”.

Let’s talk about “el clásico” against Real Madrid. Do you think it’ll be decisive?

frame_iniesta_5.jpg“No. I believe there’s still a long way to go in the league but of courses it’s important for what it represents historically and because of the situation of both teams in the table and because we’re playing at home, which should motivate us more to take the three points. It won’t be decisive but we have to win in order to get to the top as soon as possible”.

The result of the Real Madrid match can influence the mood in the Club.

“Yes, it’s true that there is more than just three points at stake in these matches. Given the position in the table a victory is a very important plus for the winning team”.

You’ve played in six previous matches against Real Madrid. Is Sunday’s match still something special?

“Although I’ve played six or seven matches [against Real Madrid] I believe it’s still a special match not only for the players but for everyone because of everything that surrounds it and, above all, when you play at home it’s even more special”.

What do you think of Real Madrid?

iniesta0607fcbmadrid3-3.jpg“I don’t pay much attention to what our rivals are doing but I’ve more or less been following them. They’ve been getting results and it’s no coincidence they’re top. They’ve got top class players and we have to respect them but when we play well we’re a difficult team to beat and so we have to focus on ourselves”.

Barça has a 100% home record.

“That’s important. And if we keep on improving our results away from home we could have a chance of winning the title. I hope the Camp Nou stays a “fortress” until the end of the season”.

Raúl is having a great season. What do you think about the Madrid captain’s season?

“Raúl is a touchstone for Real Madrid. This season he’s scoring goals and playing at a high standard. We’ll have to keep an eye on him because he can win a match at any moment”.

Are you expecting a tense build-up with an exchange of comments?

“We can’t control what goes on the outside. Everyone is free to have his opinion but we have to do our talking on the pitch and everything else is secondary. As long as nobody is disrespectful I think it isn’t a bad thing to liven up the match. That’s also part of football and of “el clásico”.

Messi’s injury will keep him out for at least four weeks and Barça will have to do without one of the team’s most dangerous players.

val-fcb1_x10x.jpg“Firstly, it’s a shame for him because an injury is the worse thing that can happen to a player. It’ll be an important loss to the team because Leo is having an extraordinary season and we need players like him for matches like this. But the main thing is that he recovers quickly and well”.

Can you see yourself playing at right wing?

“I don’t know. I’m happy to play in any position. The coach will decide what’s best for the team. The main thing is that it all works out well”.
Iniesta: “The Real Madrid game will be very special but not decisive”

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A match for the home-grown talent
The Real Madrid match will be very special for players who have come up through the youth ranks. There might even be more home-grown players than in any “el clásico” of recent years.

“We should be pleased about that. We should all appreciate the number of youth team players that are making it into the first team. They’re doing a good job in the academy and now we’re reaping the benefits”.

Do you see yourself as a reference point for these players, despite your youth?

“I’ve been through this and I always say that the more experienced players have to help to create the best atmosphere for them and help them every way we can. We put ourselves in their shoes and remember how we appreciated the advice we got from the veterans. The important thing is that they feel comfortable in a team with so many stars”.

For players like Bojan and Giovani the match against Real Madrid will be even more special. It wasn’t long ago that they watched these matches from the stands and this Sunday they can on the pitch, just like Iniesta four seasons ago.

“Yes, it’s a different match. You see how the fans live the build-up during the week, the warmth of the fans when you leave the hotel, the atmosphere in the stadium. I believe “el clásico” is completely different from the rest of the matches in the season and all day you just think about winning because you know it will make a lot of people happy”.

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