all set for CSKA Moscow!
Madrid takes on CSKA Moscow tonight in the Champions League round of 16 ida game at 21h local time (18h Spain time). Hopefully, Madrid will continue its winning streak and extend its perfect record in the Champions League, and Iker will continue as the only goalkeeper in the competition to not receive any goals.
What do you think Sergio saw? Iker’s hairline? Calleti cozying up to Pipita? Another of his teammates wearing a pair of animal-themed boxers?
To Moscow we go!
About 12 hours after they further consolidated their lead in the Liga, Madrid returned to training, to start preparing for Tuesday’s match against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League round of 16. There were 18 players from the first team plus Tomás Mejías at the session, while Cris and Pepe worked out indoors (maybe Marcelo couldn’t find an excuse to join them?). Lass and Altintop remained injured, while the newly re-injured Ángel di María was also absent. Angelito re-injured himself in the final moments of the game against Racing, after two months out with an injury to his left calf. The club hasn’t specified how long he’ll be out, and in the meantime, he’ll undergo tests to determine the severity of the injury.
More buddies for Calleti!
The 20 healthy players plus Mejías were called up for the game.
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.
Defenders: Arbeloa, Carvalho, Varane, Albiol, Pepe, Coentrão, Marcelo, Ramos.
Midfielders: Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Özil, Callejón, Sahin, Granero, Kaká.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema.
As TVE will be broadcasting the game, they got special permission to interview Mou and Fábio Coentrão. Neither said anything very interesting (Rubén León didn’t ask any interesting questions), and I barely heard what Fábio said, because he kept being interrupted by Mou! First Mou was just there
looking on like a stalker watching him, and then he started taking pictures of Fábio with his mobile! Jajaja!!!! And I love how Mou thought he was being so hilarious!
Breaking with recent tradition, Madrid traveled to Moscow two days in advance, in order to give themselves time to acclimate to the freezing weather and the artificial pitch. They brought along a lot of material to help keep themselves warm: 1,250 kilos of material, to be exact, or 25 kilos per person (the total delegation is made up of 50 persons). The flight from Madrid to Moscow took five hours, which gave the boys a lot of time to pose with each other.
Some observations: the seating arrangements weren’t surprising at all (I’m sure you would get all of them right); Kaká is sporting Raúl Albiol’s former hairstyle (though it looks better on him than on El Chori); and Madrid really is the team with a million hand gestures! They saw a camera and their hands immediately start moving of their own volition, especially into the thumbs up position. I see the Madrid photographers have trained them well.
The team arrived in the Russian capital shortly before midnight. It was 12 degrees below zero when the delegation arrived, prompting Iker to exclaim, “¡Joder!” The players signed autographs and posed for pictures with several young fans, and one older one, who found a time tested and not so novel idea (or pair of ideas) to get Sergio’s attention. She walked away with an autograph on her shirt, and she also gave Sergio a kiss.
The team then headed to the Radisson Royal Hotel. And as always, it’s a pleasure to see Zinedine Zidane traveling with the team, as well as shadowing Karim Benzema. Zizou has done a great job with Benz, no?
From Russia with love.
On Monday, José Mourinho had the following to say at his press conference. He started off by congratulating Real Madrid’s basketball team: “before I forget, Fábio and I, in the name of the entire group, would like to congratulate the basketball team. Like us, it had been many, many years since they won the Copa. And like us, they have managed at last to break this losing streak. A big hug for them.”
on the cold weather and artificial turf factors: we have to be stronger than the conditions, no matter if they’re difficult or different. A synthetic surface is not the same as a natural surface. Minus 10, 15 degrees is not the same as 10, 15 degrees. These are new conditions for us. We haven’t been able to adapt to these conditions. We need strong heads and mentalities. We should be ready to defeat these factors.
on the midfield line-up: I understand your question, but I don’t want to respond. The players don’t know yet. Whenever I reveal the team to the press, it means that they already know.
on his 10-year anniversary in the Champions: the first game was against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu. I like this competition. It’s full of risks. I like to play the Champions more than UEFA, although I was also happy with that competition.
Meanwhile, Fábio Coentrão said, “I want to play, I work hard each day to play but we have a very talented team. We want to win, no matter who plays. I’m prepared for everything, to play or not to play, but it’s the míster who decides.” I think his Spanish has improved a lot since his Real… interview. At least, he seems much more confident speaking it and it’s more fluid.
Mou took advantage of the lull between the press conference and the team training session to kick the ball around. He showed off his football skills, and tried his luck at some penalty kicks, under the watchful eyes of Fábio, Óscar, Silvino and company. He’s not bad!
Then the team wrapped themselves in layers and layers of clothing and headed out to train at the Luzhniki Stadium in temperatures of minus 7 degrees, with strong winds (it could be worse, a couple of days ago it was minus 25 degrees). They practiced with the orange ball, in case it snows on game day. The team tried to get acclimated to the cold weather and to the artificial surface (which the Spanish media points out, was manufactured in Spain).
In terms of courage, Sami Khedira and Karim Benzema were the bravest, as they were wearing just shorts, instead of the long pants or shorts plus tights favored by the rest of their teammates. Everyone wore gloves, and the majority of them also had hats and snoods on, though some of them took them off after they got warmed up. Look at how red Iker’s face got!
The players took the session seriously, but there was of course a bit of time for hugs, as always. That’s Esteban hugging Kaká.
The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
A rundown of all the tweets sent by our players over the last few days.
Sergio provided us with this photo of him and Manolín (in case you don’t know, Manolín is one of the team’s equipment managers), captioning it as “even though some don’t want to travel due to the cold, we’ll still take him along in a bag…” I can’t believe they actually tied up and gagged poor Manolín! He really is the best sport in the world, always having to put up with all the teasing from the players and coaches. One day later, Sergio tweeted a photo of him and “El Pipeta” before the training session, saying it was cold but not overly so. Álvaro Arbeloa tweeted that there was “a bit of cold” while Raúl Albiol said they had adapted to the field and cold after the session.
Iker used his FB to give us this photo of him and his “old friend,” who is also the biggest kid in the world! And Esteban Granero tweeted this photo of a chemistry exam taken by one Fernando Díaz González, which he found super amusing. He wrote, “Fernando Díaz González, wherever you are, you are a true idol. Four heavy metals… that is cum laude work. I admire you.” It really is hilarious – the question on the exam asked the test taker to write down four heavy metal elements and their element symbols. Fernando decided to fill in the space with four heavy metal bands, complete with their symbols! Jajaja! Of note: he got all the rest of the questions right. And I love the question mark from the teacher!!
Madrid also gave us this little video to get us excited about the return of the Champions League. I like the lighting effects they employed on the players.
As for Castilla, they turned in a not so impressive performance against the last-place Montañeros, though they did walk away with a win. Jesé scored twice and MFC ABMM scored once as Castilla won 3-2 at EADS. This allowed the filial to add to their lead on top of the table.
José Mourinho was at the game, along with Aitor Karanka, watching the boys after the first team’s training session.
And I have to congratulate Real Madrid’s basketball team for winning the Copa del Rey. ¡¡Felicidades!! They did it in style, steamrolling over tournament favorite Barcelona AND at the Palau Sant Jordi 91-74. Sergio Llull scored 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting (including 5 of 7 in threes) and dished out five assists on his way to picking up the MVP award.
This is Madrid’s first Copa del Rey title since 1993, although they’ve played in many finals since then, including the last two prior to this year, without any luck, losing both times to Barcelona. This win gives Madrid 23 Copas del Rey, the most of any team in the tournament’s history. Barcelona is second (once again) with 22. I love how excited FP was! He also looked super tiny alongside the players, a problem he doesn’t have when he’s with the football team.
Felipe Reyes got to lift up the trophy first, as team captain, and he dedicated the trophy to “la afición madridista” and his late father. He said, “we played very well and we were faithful to our style.” That’s always what I want from the football team too! The team traveled back to Madrid that night, and had a celebratory dinner at the Asador de la Esquina in the Bernabéu.
About 20 madridistas showed up at Cibeles to celebrate. No protection had been put up, but they were well-behaved.
And, football team – don’t let that trophy get lonely!