MADRID, Spain, January 24 – Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, who is at the centre of a reported bust-up between players and coach Jose Mourinho, has denied there is now a rift in the dressing room ahead of the El Clasico this Wednesday at the Nou Camp which will decide who will go through to the semi-finals of the King’s Cup.
Despite Real’s blistering form in the league which has seen them score a record 67 goals at the halfway stage of the season and has helped earn them a five-point lead over reigning champions Barcelona, all is not well at the club and that is partly because they have been out-classed by their bitter rivals in their two meetings so far.
Mourinho is now in his second season at the Bernabeu and has still not found a way to beat Barcelona – with the one exception the Cup final last year.
He has reverted to defensive and ruthless tactics in a desperate bid which have not only failed but also are not good for the image of the club.
It was reported on Sunday by Spanish sports daily Marca that there was an argument after the 2-1 first leg defeat in the cup by Barca last Wednesday and this reignited on Friday during a training session. The players apparently hit back at criticisms from Mourinho that they were not backing him in the press with Sergio Ramos a protagonist.
Real bounced back from their negative performance against Barcelona with a devastating second half display at home to Athletic Bilbao and ran out 4-1 victors.
But whistles could still be heard for the first time for Mourinho from the crowd.
Ramos attempted to clear the air saying that all is well in the Real camp as they prepare for the cup decider.
“Whoever said that the dressing room is divided or that there are problems is lying. We have an excellent group of players who are united and working together we will have success,” he said on Twitter.
“It was a big win at the weekend, we played well and have three more points. Now we are concentrating on the cup.”
Barcelona also warmed up in style for the game with a 4-1 win over Malaga where Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick, his 14th at the club.
The Catalan side couldn’t afford to be distracted by the cup and risk dropping more points in the championship race and Messi rose to the occasion with Alexis Sanchez getting the other goal.
It was the perfect response from the Argentine, whose away form has been questioned as just one of his 19 goals before the Malaga match had come away from the Nou Camp.
One of the lingering memories of the cup first leg was an apparent stamp by Pepe on Messi as he lay on the ground and Andres Iniesta says he is surprised that no action has been taken against the Portuguese enforcer.
“The images speak for themselves and the different opinions have been made. He said it was not deliberate but apart from what is decided on the pitch maybe a disciplinary committee should act so that this doesn’t happen again. It isn’t the first time,” he said.
Looking ahead to Wednesday’s game he added: “The opposition will mean that we will have to play a perfect match as it is a knockout and they are Madrid. From us there will be no relaxation, we have an advantage but that is all and we are just concentrating on getting through to the next round.
“If we started speculating or being cautious it would be worse because Madrid have come to win and they have the players to achieve it.”