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Pepe will face Barca in Cup if fit, Mourinho says

By Reuters

Real Madrid defender Pepe will play in Wednesday's King's Cup quarter-final second leg at Barcelona if he is fit despite the controversy over his alleged stamp on Lionel Messi's hand in last week's first game, coach Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday. 

Pepe denied intentionally treading on Messi in the 2-1 defeat and the incident, caught on television cameras, was apparently missed by the referee who had earlier booked the Portuguese for a late tackle on Sergio Busquets.  

The 28-year-old, who was left out of Sunday's La Liga win at home to Athletic Bilbao, is available for the game at the Nou Camp after the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) decided on Monday to take no action against him. 

At a news conference where his often difficult relationship with the media hit a new low, a tetchy Mourinho said Pepe and midfielders Lassana Diarra and Esteban Granero had minor injury problems and a decision on their availability would be taken on Wednesday. 

"There are three players with problems, including Lass and Granero," Mourinho, who gave brusque responses to most of the questions he was asked, told reporters. 

"If he is physically fit he'll play," he said of his compatriot Pepe.  

Mourinho batted away several questions about what tactics he plans to employ to try to reverse Real's woeful run of results against their arch rivals, where he was an assistant coach in the late 1990s. 

Last week's defeat at the Bernabeu was Mourinho's fifth against Barca in nine games since he joined Real and he has only managed one win, a 1-0 success after extra time in last year's Cup final. 

"I won't answer," he said when probed about his plans. "I am the coach and the decision is mine and I don't have to announce it publically." 

Asked about an unsourced report in the Spanish media that he plans to leave Real in June, the former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager added: "Did I say that? Ask your colleague." 

Another reporter asked him if he was happy at Real and Mourinho answered with a vague murmur that appeared to indicate he was. 

Responding to an enquiry about why he thought some Real fans had whistled him in Sunday's win over Bilbao, he said curtly: "I don't know. You'll have to ask them." 

Mourinho noted that Real are five points clear of Barca in La Liga with half the season played and that they had won all six of their Champions League group matches. 

"We have five more points than the team that everyone thinks is the best team in the world," he said. 

"When we got here the club had a tradition of getting knocked out of the Cup by teams from inferior divisions. We won the Cup. We are league leaders. It doesn't seem to me that we have so many problems or that we are doing things so badly."