The Real Madrid manager, José Mourinho, is unhappy with the choice of referee for the match against Barcelona tomorrow. Eduardo Iturralde González has refereed two games between the teams, with Barcelona winning both times, in 1999 and 2005.
"The statistics are there – Barcelona is happy with Iturralde González and Real Madrid is less happy," Mourinho said on the eve of El Clásico.
Mourinho can count on the return of the striker Gonzalo Higuaín, the midfielder Sami Khedira and the defender Ricardo Carvalho for the La Liga game at Camp Nou after they missed Tuesday's 4-0 win over Ajax due to injury.
The Portuguese coach said the 90,000-plus fans expected at the match and millions of worldwide viewers could expect a world-class game if all the players did their job.
"If the players only worry about playing football, there's enough quality there to have a game for all of the world [to love] and we have the responsibility to provide the world with a match the world can love," Mourinho said. "These are two teams that could be the best – if not the best, then very close."
Madrid have won seven successive matches to top the standings by one point ahead of Barcelona, who have won six in a row. Both teams are leading their respective Champions League groups and have advanced to the knockout stages. Both also have full squads to choose from.
Mourinho said he would not alter his team's style and would instead look to identify some of Barcelona's weaknesses and exploit them. "I'm worried about my team, like always. We won't abandon our own game-plan for Barça. We need to find their weakest point and take positives from that."
Aside from being a match between two of the world's biggest football clubs and superstars – Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real's Cristiano Ronaldo – the match will present the best measurement of how far Madrid have come under Mourinho, who used to work at Barcelona as a translator before becoming an assistant coach.
Madrid have not beaten their rivals in four meetings since May 2008. Barcelona have won eight trophies in two seasons under their manager, Pep Guardiola.
Mourinho arrived from the Champions League winners Internazionale, who knocked out Barcelona in the semi-finals, to take over a club that had not won a title in more than two years. "I hope my team has sufficient mental strength to lose and still believe in itself or to win and to keep its feet on the ground. I don't want this team's self-esteem to change whether we win or lose the game," he said.