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Jose blasts back in Real war of words

REAL MADRID coach Jose Mourinho has refused to tone down his rhetoric in response to a call from club president Florentino Perez for unity in an obviously divided dressing room during the final few weeks of the season.

After some unsavoury sniping between Mourinho and members of his squad in recent weeks, Perez made a rare foray into the limelight when he called for the club to be "united for the fans" as they prepare for this month's King's Cup final against city rivals Atletico Madrid and seek to secure second place in La Liga.

Mourinho raised eyebrows on Friday when he made a thinly veiled attack on goalkeeper Iker Casillas, prompting club heavyweights Sergio Ramos and Pepe to speak out in support of their captain.

At a news conference ahead of tonight's La Liga match at home to Malaga, Mourinho responded, claiming Pepe had spoken out because he was frustrated that team-mate Raphael Varane had edged ahead of him in the pecking order to partner Ramos in central defence.

"You just have to be a normal person like me or like almost everyone in this room to know that we are talking about frustration," he said. "His problem has a name: Raphael Varane."

Asked about his relationship with Casillas, Mourinho reiterated that he believed Lopez, who was brought in ostensibly as cover when Casillas broke a bone in his hand in January, was the better keeper.

"Let's see if you understand it once and for all, I am a soccer coach," Mourinho said.

"A soccer coach has certain responsibilities, one of which is to pick the team. I don't do it by flipping a coin. I do it after discussion and lengthy analysis."

If Real fail to beat Malaga tonight, leaders Barcelona will have an unassailable lead and will secure their fifth La Liga title in four years.