"We want to put the league out of our minds a bit and focus on Chelsea, because we have the chance of reaching the final of Europe’s top competition”. Speaking at Sunday’s press conference, Javier Mascherano left no-on in any doubt as to the players’ attitude in a week that will be key to the Club’s aspirations both in Europe and in La Liga.

Not surprisingly, he emphasised that the result of Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge will be vital in the outcome of the tie: “It’ll be a really difficult tie that will depend a lot on getting a good result in the first leg against a team that has always been characterised by their tremendous physical strength, and which has some really experienced players”.

Wednesday’s match first

"The main thing right now is Wednesday’s match. Afterwards, we’ll think about the league and Real Madrid. We’re in a Champions League semi-final and we have a great opportunity to reach the final. It would be a really big mistake to focus on Real Madrid first, because Wednesday’s match is very difficult and will go a long way to deciding the tie”.

The Argentine international believes there’s “no room for error” in any of the competitions at this stage of the season and is proud of the spirit shown by the players game after game, as demonstrated by the comeback against Levante: “Faith is the last thing you lose and we have faith in what we can do. Then it depends, because you never know in football, but it’s important we have the right dynamic. Obviously the victory [against Levante] in the Ciutat de Valencia strengthens us, above all because we maintained the team spirit. It’s alive and well and won’t be beaten and keeps fighting against the odds”.

However, by his own admission, Mascherano is not too keen to talk about the ‘what ifs’ and so doesn’t want to go into whether a win against Real Madrid on Saturday would bring the league title a little closer: “We are all aware that even if we win all our matches in the league we still depend on other results. Real Madrid have a four-point lead and we’ll have to see if we’re capable of beating them next weekend. It’s not in our hands. But what’s real right now is Wednesday, Stamford Bridge, Chelsea".

The will to improve

Finally, Mascherano confirmed that he’s happy about his current form: “When you have a run in the side and you see that things are going well for the team then you improve individually as well. I’m in a team that demands individual improvement. The fact is that each and every one of us has to give that little bit extra, the best we can, especially at this stage of the season”.

Messi and the squad

In answer to the question as to whether the team depends too much on Messi’s goals, Mascherano praised his fellow countryman’s goal scoring talents but also pointed to the contribution of other team-mates: “We know that we have a player who usually gives us at least a one goal or the final pass for other players. Messi makes the difference and having the best player in the world in your team means you tend to depend a bit on him because he’s goal-hungry and it’s very possible that in any match he can be the deciding element. But you have to say that sometimes it’s the goals of Cesc, Xavi, Alexis or Iniesta that have kept us alive”.

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