MADRID, Spain, Feb 23 – Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari has described as “curious” Barcelona having an extra day’s rest before next week’s Copa del Rey clash between the two sides, the first of two El Clasico derbies in four days.
Barca face Sevilla on Saturday while Madrid are away to Levante on Sunday before the two rivals meet in the second leg of their cup semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, with the historic rivals level at 1-1 after the first match at the Camp Nou.
“We find it funny,” Solari said at a press conference on Saturday. “It’s curious. But playing in different conditions, it entertains us a lot and we see it as a challenge.”
Madrid were also given one day fewer before the first leg earlier this month but had an extra day ahead of the La Liga match at the Camp Nou in October, when Barca ran out 5-1 winners.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde shrugged off Madrid’s complaints.
“Anyone can complain about the schedule, Sevilla too,” said Valverde after Saturday’s 4-2 win at Sevilla.
“Really, that sort of thing happens to Sevilla, Betis, Real, to us, to all the teams. If the match date falls like that, it’s like that.”
Solari, meanwhile, dismissed the possibility of Sergio Ramos earning a longer Champions League ban after the defender suggested he deliberately earned a yellow card against Ajax to use up his suspension in the second leg.
Ramos subsequently insisted that was not the case but UEFA could extend his punishment if they feel the booking was pre-meditated.
“The issue has been cleared up,” Solari said. “You can see (it was not deliberate) in the action itself and Sergio cleared it up afterwards. We have no doubts about it.”
Ramos will miss the game against Levante on Sunday through a separate suspension after being sent off during Madrid’s defeat to Girona last weekend. But Isco is available again after recovering from a back problem.
The loss to Girona left Madrid third in the league, nine points behind Barcelona, with a La Liga Clasico coming at the Santiago Bernabeu next weekend, four days after the meeting in the Copa del Rey.
“Last week we dropped points and the gap grew but we have to reduce it again,” Solari said. “We must fight until the end.”