Di Stefano and Cruyff hint at power shift

MADRID - A possible shift in the balance of power towards Real Madrid and away from Barcelona was reflected on Monday in the views of two of the clubs' most famous former players.

Real's 1-1 draw against Barca in La Liga 10 days ago and their 1-0 win in the King's Cup Final suggested Jose Mourinho has learned from his team's crushing 5-0 defeat at the Nou Camp this season and found a way to contain their arch-rivals.

Real's first trophy in three years has eased the pressure on their Portuguese coach, with two days to go until the clubs meet for a third time in Champions League semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu.

"Madrid are in a fabulous moment," honorary Real president Alfredo Di Stefano wrote in sports daily Marca, his rant against the side's counter-attacking style from the first 'clasico' seemingly long forgotten.

The nine-times European champions shrugged off any tiredness from the Cup final to rout third-placed Valencia 6-3 away in the league on Saturday, but Di Stefano warned against complacency.

"We have to continue in the same vein and not rest on our laurels, and to fight on as if we still hadn't won anything," he said.

"Inspiration alone isn't enough to create unforgettable art. It requires a great quantity of fight and tenacity."


Barca maintained their eight-point lead at the top of La Liga with a 2-0 win over lowly Osasuna on Saturday, and with five games left look to have a third consecutive title in the bag.

In contrast to Real, however, Barca laboured to their victory and coach Pep Guardiola appeared to be on the defensive before and after the match when speaking to the media, saying Real were now the favourites in the Champions League.

"No one passes from being favourite to the weaker side in 10 days," former Barca forward Johann Cruyff wrote in daily El Periodico.

"The draw in La Liga delivered the title and Barca lost the cup by the narrowest of margins. Ah! It's because Barca did not shine! If this is the true measure of Barcelona, there is a problem."

The Dutchman went on to give Guardiola a rap on the knuckles for the 40-year-old's change from his usual placid approach to make sniping comments about the refereeing in the first two 'clasicos' among other complaints.

The Madrid-based media have jumped on these complaints to portray Guardiola as struggling with the pressure, and a bad loser.

"Barca must do what they have done thousands of times before and forget about getting drawn into a war of words or scuffles," Cruyff said.

"Instead of worrying about who will referee, if the grass (at the Bernabeu) is long, they should think more about getting behind their rivals and into goal-scoring positions."