Jose Mourinho opts for silence ahead of El Clásico


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The Independent Football

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has opted for silence ahead of Saturday's "clasico" against Barcelona in the Spanish league.

Mourinho sent assistant Aitor Karanka to face journalists at a press conference today after the team's final training session before the match at the Bernabeu Stadium.

Karanka was curt when twice asked why Mourinho was absent.

"I've been here (at press conferences) more than 30 times," he said, adding that he didn't need to give further explanations about why Mourinho had decided not to appear. "Whatever message the boss has is the same one I have and the same the players have."

It's not the first time Mourinho has skipped a briefing before important matches.

Before hosting Barcelona at the Bernabeu last season, Karanka was also dispatched to answer questions — prompting a number of journalists to walk out in protest at the unprecedented measure.

Karanka also took over media duties while Mourinho was serving a touchline ban from the Champions League earlier this season and has fielded questions ahead of important league matches against Villarreal and Valencia.

Predictably, the assistant coach gave little away Friday. He acknowledged that the game against Barcelona was "special" but said Madrid was preparing "in the same way as for any other match."

The clash between Spain's traditionally biggest clubs has been marred by red cards, fights and accusations from Mourinho of bias against his team.

Saturday's match may be Mourinho's best chance of claiming a first league win against the reigning champion and some payback for Barcelona's recent dominance.

Barcelona beat Madrid 5-0 in Mourinho's first "clasico" and is unbeaten in six league matches against its fierce rival.

In addition, under coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona has seven wins and three draws against only one loss to Madrid in all competitions.

Nonetheless, Madrid goes into the game in fantastic form and can break a 50-year-old winning record with its 16th straight victory in all competitions if it wins Saturday.

Mourinho tried a more attacking philosophy in the two-legged Supercopa loss to Barcelona in the season opener and must decide whether to persevere with the positive approach.

The Portuguese has already said Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria will start in attack alongside either Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain.

The main question centers on whether Mourinho will field a deep forward — either Mesut Oezil or Kaka — or move to a three-man midfield with Lassana Diarra or Fabio Coentrao joining Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira in the middle.

Karanka mentioned a 4-3-3 formation when discussing tactics Friday, but was quick to add that several other options were possible.

"It's clear that this is a different game but there are just three points at stake," Karanka said. "The team is balanced and this match will not make us change."

Mourinho has named a 23-man squad for the Bernabeu clash, with central defender Ricardo Carvalho the main absentee through injury.

Full back Alvaro Arbeloa is also doubtful and will undergo a fitness test Saturday morning.

Madrid has a three-point lead over Barcelona atop the standings and has played a game less.