Ernesto Valverde is struggling with the magnitude of two Clasicos fixtures in four days in an extraordinary week for Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The two rivals take a 1-1 draw into the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday, and will then reconvene on Saturday in La Liga, when Madrid hope to cut their deficit at the top from nine points to six.
“It is not normal to play two games of this magnitude in the same week,” said Barcelona coach Valverde on Tuesday. “But it can happen. Our intention is to separate them and focus on the one in front of us. The one on Saturday is still far away.”
“We have to just keep doing what we have been doing,” said Real boss Solari. “The first leg was good for us, hopefully it can be again tomorrow.”
But a Clasico always carries something extra, still more a double-header, that will likely shape the mood of both clubs heading into the season’s final straight.
Bale’s bolshy reaction to scoring against Levante last weekend has been the major topic of discussion, with Solari dodging seven questions on the Welshman during his press conference on Tuesday.
He refused to criticise, or defend, Bale’s behaviour but has started him only twice in the eight matches since the 29-year-old returned from a calf injury in January.
“Look, I understand everyone wants to find a focus and you put the focus where it seems important,” Solari said.
“But our focus is only on what we think is important. It is on the game, to win tomorrow, to be united. Where others focus is up to them.”
Asked if he had spoken to Bale about the incident against Levante, Solari said: “There are some things that stay in the dressing room and that remain private.”
Bale was left out of the starting line-up at the City of Valencia Stadium and after coming on to convert a second-half penalty, remained stony-faced while brushing off attempts from team-mates to congratulate him.
“He won us the game,” said Solari after the 2-1 win. “The players can celebrate goals how they want, as long as they score.”
– Bale controversy –
It was the second time this month that Bale’s response to a goal has caused controversy.
After scoring in a 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid two weeks ago, Bale seemed to make an obscene gesture towards the Atletico fans, which could still see him banned for both upcoming games against Barca.
Vinicius Junior has contributed to Bale’s problems, his blistering form on the left of Madrid’s front three making him all-but indispensable from Solari’s line-up.
“He has arrived with and demonstrated his humility and his talent,” Solari said. “The rest of the team respects him and has always tried to help him. He brings talent, effort, humility and a desire to learn.”
It was Vinicius’ cross that led to Lucas Vazquez’s goal in the first leg. “He is unpredictable,” said Valverde. “He brings gives them speed and has a lot of self-confidence. He is having a great season.”
Back to his best for Barca, meanwhile, is Lionel Messi, who may be rested for the cup semi-final after scoring a stunning hat-trick, the 50th of his career, against Sevilla on Sunday.
Asked if Madrid’s players fear Messi this week, Solari said: “For those that compete at this level, this word does not exist in football.”
Barca midfielder Arthur Melo is back in training but more likely to return on Saturday, while Valverde said he will make a late decision on goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, who was injured for the first leg.
“We start from the base that if we don’t score, we have no chance,” Valverde said. “We have to score. We have to protect ourselves too, but we will go out to attack.”