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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

After beating Osasuna and making into the last eight of the Copa del Rey, the forthcoming duel with Mourinho took up much of the conversation with Javier Mascherano. But the midfielder insisted that "now that we have qualified for the cup quarter finals, the most important thing is to keep fighting for the league ... This team is used to thinking about our next game. That's what happens when you're playing in so many competitions. We have to get the three points to keep fighting for the league, and we'll have time to think about Real Madrid after."

Mascherano added that "this team cannot afford to throw away the league because of a five point difference. With 63 left to play for, anything can still happen. And in a way, throwing away the league in January would be underestimating our opponents ... to carry on in the cup and do well in the Champions League, it is important to maintain our level in the league.

Importance of first leg

But going back to the game against Madrid, he believes that the game at the Bernabéu "will do a lot to determine the tie ... In games like this it doesn't usually matter what form the teams are in. In a two-legged match you have to be cautious about who might be in form or not. The most important thing is to do well on the two match days, especially knowing that the first game is at the Bernabéu and they will want to bring a lead to the Camp Nou. I have no doubt that the first leg will have a huge impact on the tie".

Small details

Mascherano says that after so many encounters between the two clubs, "we know each other too well ... small details will decide the game. I think we are both in the same situation, trying to qualify for a semi final against our biggest rival. This is a very important game ... Who wouldn't be grateful for playing in a match that everybody is watching? Barça and Madrid are the two best teams in the world, I'm lucky to be here. I'd like to play because it'll mean I'll be part of something that will always be remembered, that's nice for me. Those of us who can enjoy games like this are the chosen ones."

Encouragement for Fontàs

Mascherano also had some words for Fontàs: "He looks upset after getting that injury. But there are worse things in life than injuries. He's young, he'll recover to play again. The most important thing is being positive about getting fit again."

Pinto’s mental strength

Asked what Pinto does as a player and squad member, Mascherano highlighted his mental strength for only being the second choice at such a club as FC Barcelona: “He has had a great playing career. He has many years of goalkeeping behind him. It is not easy to be a substitute at such a big club, and especially with Valdés being so unquestionable. He is always ready for the competitions he plays in, like the Copa del Rey, and he does a great job … You have to be very strong mentally, and he is year after year. And he’s always got a smile on his face. I have played in some huge teams, and it’s hard to find such a secure second keeper.”

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