all set for Lyon!
Let’s hope Karim doesn’t have as much trouble finding the goal tonight as he did putting on his vest yesterday. I love how Mesut just laughed at him…
We seem to be playing Lyon all too often recently, no? But if Madrid wins tonight (20:45) and Ajax does not win, then Madrid is guaranteed the first place in their group, and so they can concentrate on the Liga and the upcoming games against Atleti and Barça instead of the Champions League. Meanwhile, Iker is the only goalkeeper not to have conceded a goal yet in the three games of the competition, and hopefully this streak will continue.
In any case, our boys will look good tonight, as they’ll be wearing shirts without the bwin logo, due to restrictions against this in France.
The team trained on Tuesday afternoon, with 20 footballers from the first team and Tomás Mejías from Castilla. The absences were Kaká, Álvaro Arbleoa (both injured during the Real Sociedad game, to the left quadriceps and right calf, respectively) and Ricardo Carvalho (still suffering from back pain). During the session, Marcelo injured his left quadriceps, so he wasn’t called up for the game. Mou looked to Castilla to fill the absence, calling up Dani Carvajal (aka the ugliest one on Castilla, according to MFC ABMM who is of course joking). Meanwhile, Raúl Albiol and Esteban Granero have recovered from their respective injuries, and so they made the list. Nuri Sahin was once again left off the list, I guess since Mou doesn’t believe he’s ready yet.
I loved how Pepe teased Mes, how Esteban (and Rui before him) tried on “the mask of Zorro” (if it survived Sergio trying it on, we know it’s indestructible) and how Sergio decided to flash some thigh.
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.
Defenders: Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Carvajal, Coentrão, Albiol.
Midfielders: Özil, Di María, Xabi Alonso, Callejón, Lass, Khedira, Granero, Altintop.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema.
Following the training session, the team traveled to Lyon, where they’re staying at the Hilton. Zinedine Zidane traveled with the team, looking as dapper as ever. He just oozes elegance, no?
José Mourinho and Karim Benzema spoke to the press from the Gerland. Mou spoke about alternating Karim and Gonzalo Higuaín in the starting XI: “this rotation is good, with the combination of games, and so many consecutive ones. Both are at the top of their game, playing well, which is good for them and for the team. I’m sure that there will come a time when I have to decide, and I’ll do that without any problems, after thinking a lot and weighing the consequences. The two of them also have no problems playing together, with Karim on the wing or both in the center, but at this moment the team is playing well, it has found its equilibrium. I’ve spoken with both of them and they understand that they’re at the service of the team.”
As for the line-up tonight, all Mou would say was that Sergio Ramos would be playing. As for the rest, “it’s a curious situation because both Marcelo and Kaká didn’t play in San Sebastián so that they would be fresh for this game. In the end, Marcelo didn’t play and was injured today, while Kaká, in the 15 or 20 minutes that he played, was nicely hit and now he can’t play. I knew that Kaká would not travel, but Marcelo’s situation caught me by surprise. But we prefer to talk about those who are here, instead of those who aren’t. Those who aren’t here aren’t here and we have others who are here. We have Albiol, who is returning with his mask of Zorro [Karim smiles] to play, and Carvajal, who’s here for the first time with us… Ramos will play.”
Meanwhile, Karim Benzema spoke about FP’s celebration the last time they were in the Gerland, after the apple of his eye Karim scored a goal. He said, “when I saw the images of Florentino Pérez celebrating my goal, I was very happy. It was a magnificent image because he’s the president of Real Madrid.” Karim added that this game will be emotional for him because “it’s always special to return to play in Lyon because it’s my club since the time I was very small. It’s an important day not only for me, but for everyone. We hope to win this game.” And yay, they let Karim speak in French.
Madrid’s FB page once again brought us some photos from the concentración including Esteban Granero reading Raymond Carver’s “Errand” (the translator to Spanish re-titled it “Tres rosas amarillas,” which means it cannot be translated back to “Three Yellow Roses” in English). And naturally, he had a stack of books with him. I’d love the read whatever short stories Esteban writes. Meanwhile, Karim Benzema was “speaking a bit with his family before resting” but with his family living in Lyon, couldn’t he just pick up the phone to call them?
The other Spaniards were also having fun. I adore Iker’s expression! And what were they looking at here? Maybe they were chatting with Álvaro, who was left back in Madrid. Poor A-team, just when they get their third member (Albiol) back, the second one drops out (because Xabi is always number one).
This morning, the players took a walk around the Tête d’Or park, which is close to their hotel. It’s a lovely autumn scene, no? But I’m worried about Iker, he should look up when he walks and not at his phone. Meanwhile, Xabi and Raúl were looking quite lonely without Álvaro, while it was strange seeing Cris and Pepe without Marcelo. Marca reports that Mou spoke in Spanish with Mesut during the walk, and continued talking with him once they were back at the hotel. The team also met with members of the peña Rhones-Alpes, which came to the hotel to cheer on their team.
During their time in the hotel, Iker hung out with former teammate Aitor Karanka (or rather, Aitor hung over him), and found the long lost twin of another former teammate, Jordi Codina, which he shared with us on his FB.
A little more on Dani Carvajal. Due to the injuries to Marcelo and Arbeloa, Mou decided to call up Carva for the first time (officially).
Dani is from Leganés, and in his ninth season in the cantera, and second with Castilla. Ever since he’s been here, he’s been compared to Míchel Salgado, due to the position they both play, their manner of playing (spirit and sacrifice) as well as physical similarities (short with blond hair, although Dani’s hair is now brown). In Castilla, there are three captains. One is chosen by the team, which is Nacho; one is chosen by the coach, which is Juanfran; and one is chosen by the club, which is Carvajal this year. If he plays tonight, he’ll wear the “32.” MFC recently gave us this photo from 2004, of Dani putting the first stone of the future Ciudad Deportiva de Valdebebas in place.
Other bits and pieces of news:
– on Monday, while Sergio, Iker, Álvaro and Raúl were at class at the Ciudad de Fútbol, Sergio tweeted this photo of “the future sporting directors.” Pay attention to where Álvaro’s hand is, because this photo (which Iker also posted on his Facebook) caused him to tweet, “look ‘young’ (if I translate Álvaro’s use of the word “jóvenes” like Iker does), in the photo that Sergio and Iker posted, the only thing I have in my hand is my mobile phone… it’s because the iPhone is so small now!” Jajaja!!! Iker looks quite cuddly, but I dislike the grandfather cardigan, and Sergio’s plaid shirt is a small step up from Iker’s collection, only because it’s nice and tight.
– on the mend: Sergio Canales, who was released from the hospital in Madrid on Monday. He’s already back in Valencia recovering, though he has to return to Madrid next week for a check-up. He told El Larguero that he will be using crutches instead of a wheelchair, that this was his first-ever surgery, and that everything went well. His parents were there with him, and are with him in Valencia now. Sergio also said he’s grateful for all the messages, phone calls and tweets of support he received, and revealed that “almost all of my teammates from Madrid sent messages or called.” When asked what Mou told him, Sergio responded that Mou had sent him a message wishing him a fast recovery and “mucho ánimo.” There are also reports that FP visited Sergio C. in the hospital, and that Madrid’s doctor supervised the operation.
Also recovering: Capote, who visited Valdebebas on Monday. He tweeted that “it was emotional stepping onto the field of Valdebebas again, I only have words of affection and gratitude for my teammates, friends, employees and directors, thank you.” It looks like he also got his wish to speak with Rubén de la Red about the similarities of their situations, as Rubén re-tweeted this tweet that his wife Tania had sent to Capote: “I’m happy that you got to speak with Rubén, you have to keep moving forward, a hug.”
And of course, best wishes to Antonio Cassano, who is improving in a hospital after falling ill recently. AC Milan has confirmed that he suffered an ischemic-based cerebral episode, which left no permanent damage, and will undergo “minor” heart surgery. He is expected to return in a few months.
– France Football has revealed the short-list of 23 players for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2011 award. Karim Benzema, Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Özil and Xabi Alonso made it, while José Mourinho is one of the 10 coaches vying for the coach of the year award.
– here are a couple more images of Gonzalo Higuain at the Nike event on Monday. He’s definitely changed for the better since he arrived at Madrid, no?
– Iker Casillas and the A-team have collaborated with the Fundación Prodis, a non-profit organization that helps children with intellectual handicaps integrate into schools, society and workplaces. They appear in the 2012 charity calendar of the foundation, which is centered around the theme “we can too.”
– here is Xabi dancing at the end of the 2002-03 season, from the video which reader Pammie pointed us to. Real Sociedad was celebrating finishing second in the Liga (the thorn in Xabi’s side). Xabi used to look a lot more like Mikel, no? And perhaps he has a future in music?
– plus, check out these scenes from the Camp Nou on Saturday. Mallorca was in town to play Barcelona, and one of their players, Martí Crespí, was waiting around to take a picture with someone. Who was that person? The famous el del bigote (Francesc Satorra)! Remember him from the Barcelona-Madrid Supercopa second leg? So Martí and a teammate went up to him, asking if they could take take a picture with him. Satorra refused to do it on the field, because there were cameras around. Then they headed into the tunnels, but the cameras were still filming, so he said later. On the third attempt, Martí finally got his much sought-after photo, though Satorra was caught staring and looking impervious once again.