Real grow in confidence as Barca problems mount

MADRID - Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain orchestrated Real Madrid's 6-3 destruction of Valencia in La Liga on Saturday and demonstrated the impressive strength in depth available in Jose Mourinho's squad.

Brazilian playmaker Kaka scored two goals and set up another two while Argentine striker Higuain also set up two and bagged a hat-trick for himself.

Both players are coming back from long-term injuries and made starts as coach Mourinho rested many of the players who had competed in Wednesday's 1-0 extra-time victory over Barcelona in the King's Cup Final.

The Portuguese had one eye on next Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg which is also against Barca, but could still call on three internationals to lead the line with Kaka, Higuain and Frenchman Karim Benzema.

None of the three, who cost Real just over 100 million euros in total, played in the cup final.

"Kaka has played an absolutely fantastic match in a position I like a lot," Mourinho told reporters on Saturday.

"For his confidence it is fantastic, and now with six or seven games left to play we need the best from him. What he does this season will help us to be able to see the best of Kaka next year."

The contrast with Barcelona was marked as the league leaders looked ahead to the final month of the season with a smaller squad that has been hit by injuries to Bojan Krkic, Adriano Correia and Eric Abidal.

A laboured 2-0 victory over relegation-threatened Osasuna maintained their eight-point lead at the top with five games left but with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi starting on the bench, Barca failed to shine.

Regular striker Villa started up front with former youth team player Jeffren and Ibrahim Affelay, who cost some four million euros.

Messi came off the bench to score Barca's second goal and settle the match at the end, but coach Pep Guardiola was left with further injury worries.

Brazilian full-back Maxwell and Argentine centre-back Gabriel Milito finished with groin and calf problems respectively the club said.

"The strength of Madrid is clear," Guardiola told reporters. "Their reserves are Benzema, Higuain and Kaka. They have a very strong team."


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