Villa, Tello & Kaka emerge from the cold to stake Clasico claims

The Spain striker, the Catalan winger and the Brazilian midfielder all impressed on Saturday night as their teams fought back to win ahead of Tuesday’s Copa clash at Camp Nou

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Just a couple of weeks ago, it would have been unwise to bet on any of David Villa, Cristian Tello or Kaka starting in the Copa del Rey Clasico clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Tuesday. But after starring on Saturday as the two teams came from behind to win in La Liga, all three may have just played their way into the respective starting line-ups for the semi-final second leg at Camp Nou.

Villa took advantage of a rare start, but Barca struggled in the first half and went in behind at the interval to a goal from their former defender Alberto Botia. However, the Asturian crashed home a header from a Dani Alves cross after 52 minutes to bring the home side level. At the break, he had switched to a central role, with Lionel Messi dropping deeper. Food for thought for the Clasico, perhaps, especially as Messi netted the second after he was set up by the lively Tello.

The youngster came off the bench to replace the injured – and ineffectual – Alexis Sanchez and energised Barca in the second period. Blamed by many for the Clasico defeat in La Liga against Madrid last April, some of those critics are now clamouring for his inclusion in Tuesday’s fixture. On this evidence, both he and Villa could have pivotal parts to play in the cup clash.

Barca beat Sevilla 2-1 but for long periods looked little better than they had in Wednesday night’s disappointing defeat at AC Milan. And the Catalans conceded for the 11th match in succession, a habit later lamented by Javier Mascherano as the Argentine admitted: “We are letting in too many goals.”

Having conceded 16 in those 11 games, it is hard to see how Barca will stop a side like Madrid, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo in full flow – and perhaps Kaka too.

Ronaldo found himself on the bench as coach Jose Mourinho gave a clear indication of just where his priorities lie this week – Copa comes first now as La Liga takes a back seat.

But with Madrid trailing in a poor performance at Riazor, Cristiano was sent on to inspire his side. With their prize player on the pitch, Mourinho’s men grew in confidence and the Portuguese appeared to lift all of those around him, including Kaka.

The Brazilian levelled with a lovely curled effort with 17 minutes left and continued his recent revival in another encouraging encounter. He even completed the full 90 minutes and must now be in contention for a role on Tuesday.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, set up Gonzalo Higuain for the winner with two minutes remaining but was unable to score himself at the only Primera Division ground where he has yet to net. The Portuguese is a certain starter for Madrid on Tuesday but, with the team needing goals and up against a vulnerable Barca, Mourinho may decide Kaka deserves a place alongside him, especially after Angel Di Maria got himself stupidly sent off in stoppage time on Saturday.

Time will tell, but Villa, Tello and Kaka did themselves no harm at all on Saturday and, after a frustrating time for all three, the trio now look ready to make their mark as the latest edition of the famous fixture fast approaches.

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