DERMOT CORRIGAN: Sweet and sour at Real

Both Real Madrid and Barcelona warmed up for this week’s Champions League quarter-final second legs with thumping La Liga victories on Saturday, but the mood around each camp differed markedly.

Madrid steamrolled Levante 5-1 at a tetchy Santiago Bernabeu, as the internal feud between boss Jose Mourinho and captain Iker Casillas smouldered on. Barca, meanwhile, hammered Real Mallorca 5-0 at a joyous Camp Nou, as Tito Vilanova and Eric Abidal both returned fit and healthy.

Even with Mourinho resting many players ahead of tomorrow’s second-leg at Galatasaray, and Levante taking an early lead, the result at the Bernabeu was never in doubt.

Gonzalo Higuain’s spectacular volley, Kaka’s penalty, and goals from subs Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil [2] saw them home easily.

Los Blancos should have similarly few problems on Tuesday in Istanbul given their 3-0 first leg advantage, but Ronaldo was on message on Saturday evening.

“The tie is not decided,” the Portuguese said. “We need to go there and play. If we go there looking to score ourselves, we can progress calmly.”

Calm is not a word you would use to describe the Madrid media’s response to Casillas not coming straight back into the team, having recovered from a broken finger. Mourinho’s claims that replacement Diego Lopez is playing too well to be dropped are disbelieved, with journalists sure there is something personal between the Special One and San Iker.

Assistant coach Aitor Karanka’s Friday press conference focused more on Casillas than on Levante or Galatasaray. When former Madrid sporting director Arrigo Sacchi’s suggestions that the goalkeeper had never been a good trainer were put to Karanka, Mourinho’s man pointedly refused to either confirm or deny.

Sports daily AS literary reaction was to cite Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose, where the monks may not laugh, because laughing kills fear, and without fear there is no faith, or need for God. Maybe Casillas smiled too much, mused writer Juanma Trueba. He did not need to point out who God was in this parable.

There were smiles all round as Barca prepared for Wednesday’s return game against Paris Saint-Germain by dispatching bottom-side Mallorca. Two players recently questioned by the Camp Nou crowd starred — Cesc Fabregas scored his first ever senior hat-trick and Alexis Sanchez notched an impressive double. Both players enjoyed extra space and responsibility, with Lionel Messi injured, but generous Mallorca defending also helped.

The defining image of the game was a sideline embrace between Vilanova and Abidal, as the defender prepared to enter as a sub. It was Tito’s first home game since leaving in January for cancer treatment in New York, while Abidal was returning from a liver transplant operation in April 2012. Even more poignantly both men had also previously had tumours removed, meaning each had twice beaten cancer to return.

Abidal removed his jersey post-game to reveal a tee-shirt thanking his cousin, who was the donor for the transplant. “This is a special moment,” Abidal said. “I want to thank my cousin, because without him I would not be here today. Thanks to everyone, my family, friends, Barca’s fans and all the people in the hospital who battled with me. Do not stop battling, you must believe and pray.”

The Frenchman is unlikely to feature against his compatriots on Wednesday night, but Messi may.

The player himself will likely decide whether he has recovered from the thigh injury picked up in the 2-2 first leg in Paris.

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