Jose is staying put – and aims to be a snake in the grass again

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The Independent Football

Barcelona play their third El Clasico away from home inside two weeks on Wednesday night admitting that their squad is in desperate need of strengthening.

The run of matches against Real Madrid has been hard on the Spanish champions – the first three have all come away from the Nou Camp and Pep Guardiola's resources have dwindled as Jose Mourinho's options have increased.

"There will be no free midweeks next season because of the European Championships and we will need a bigger squad. We can't run the players into the ground, we should have more," said Guardiola.

Regardless of whether another attempt to bring Cesc Fabregas to the Nou Camp follows, Barça will bring in three or four new players this summer with Guardiola confirming he would sit down with the sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta at the end of the season to pick out reinforcements.

Barcelona supporters raised concerns at the start of the season when protracted attempts to land Fabregas seemed to distract the club from covering holes elsewhere and fears of shortages in certain areas – most notably at centre-back – have been realised.

With Eric Abidal's season cut short by an operation to remove a tumour from his liver – and Carles Puyol struggling with tendinitisand now a hamstring problem – Barcelona have been left to field midfielder Javier Mascherano in the centre of defence both in the Champions' League quarter-final and in the Spanish Cup final.

Left-back Adriano and forward Bojan Krkic have both played their last games this season thanks to a thigh strain and knee ligament damage respectively. And as Barcelona's numbers have reduced, Mourinho has seen key players such as Gonzalo Higuain and Kaka make unexpected full and early returns from injury.

While Guardiola laments, optimism reigns over at the Bernabeu, with Mourinho looking forward bullishly to next season and confirming he'll stay another year.

"My teams are always better in the second season, and that is why I want to be here" said Mourinho, calling rumours of his departure "completely false".

The Spanish cup might not normally carry much kudos but Mourinho knows the triumph has greater weight because of their beaten rivals. Now he has home advantage again on Wednesday, and a chance once again to let the grass grow under Barcelona's feet. The ball held up notably in the first League game last weekend after groundstaff were ordered to leave the surface several centimetres longer than usual. "Every team has the right to have the grass how they prefer it in their own stadium," admitted Guardiola.

In Valencia for the Cup final, a rumour circulated before kick-off that the pitch would not be watered because both sides had to agree and Madrid had refused permission. One of the biggest cheers of the night came from the Barcelona end of the stadium when the sprinklers were turned on.

Madrid won the game in extra time thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's first goal in open play against Barcelona – his 42nd goal this season. After Real beat Lyon to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in six seasons, Ronaldo said he wanted Barcelona next and Manchester United in the final. Now it remains to be seen if it will be a reunion with Sir Alex Ferguson at Wembley on 28 May.

Real Madrid v Barcelona is on ITV1 on Wednesday, kick-off 7.45pm

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