all set for Barcelona!
It’s time for yet another (!) clásico, this time in the Copa del Rey round of eight. And we’re doing things a bit differently this time as opposed to previous games, because an overnight concentración wasn’t required prior to this game (it’s because this is the first home game since the team won five consecutive games [Ponfe, Sevilla, Ponfe, Málaga, Granada], and so they were given this “reward”). In addition, Madrid trained the morning of the game, and the list of called-up players wasn’t revealed until game day, and when it was, there was no surprise, because Mou called up the entire squad, plus Tomás Mejías from Castilla.
Polar opposites: one’s hair is plastered down, and the other has it sticking straight up.
Madrid returned to training on Monday morning, after receiving Sunday off. Hamit Altintop returned to the group, after missing out on the last session due to neck pains. That meant that 21 footballers from the first team were available for the session.
Sami Khedira remained absent, and there was a new absentee – Pepe, who has a bruise to his left quadriceps and so he did not train. The web site says he’s receiving physical therapy and medical treatment. Why can’t the sick bay ever empty out completely? Anyway, they were joined by two canteranos, Tomás Mejías and Josep Señé (RMC), with the latter watched over by Aitor Karanka.
The team trained again on Tuesday, this time behind closed doors. There was someone who managed to get inside the gates of Valdebebas though, and that was Guti! Sergio tweeted this photo of him and his
fellow fashion disaster (Guti’s belt is very Sergio as well) former teammate, writing, “I leave you all with a photo of the great Guti… a stellar visit at Valdebebas this morning. There’s no one else like you, 14!!” Let’s hope Sergio doesn’t start growing facial hair like José María…
On Wednesday, the team trained at the Bernabéu (it was cold!) before heading to the team hotel. Can’t wait to see how the stadium will look tonight!
José Mourinho also gave a press conference on Tuesday. As usual, he had some points to get across, and he did so using very memorable language, so it’s become one of those legendary press conferences. Here are my favorite parts.
on his line-up options: if Ramos plays as a right back, I’m going to be criticized because he’s a phenomenon as a centerback. If Fábio plays as a right back, I’m going to be criticized because he’s left-footed and can’t play as a right back. If Lassana plays as a right back, I’m going to be criticized because without Khedira, Lassana has to play in the midfield. If Pepe plays as a centerback, I’m going to be criticized because he has to play in the midfield. But if I put Pepe in the midfield, I’ll be criticized because he has to play as a centerback. If we play with the trivote, I’m going to be criticized because we have to attack. If we play in an attacking formation, I’ll be criticized and told that we need to play with the trivote and more defensively. If Higuaín plays, I’ll be criticized because Benzema is not playing and he’s in a fantastic moment. And if Benzema plays, I’ll be criticized because Higuaín, who played a pivotal role against Mallorca, is not playing. That’s why it will be better if you [the journalist who asked the question] and I go to the movies tomorrow and when the game ends, we’ll know the result. Do we agree?
on Cristiano Ronaldo: I’ve spent a year and a half with Cristiano and he’s scored I don’t know how many goals, how many hat tricks… We won a title with one of his goals. But you know which of his games I liked the most? The second half against Mallorca. A player who is used to being the star, against Mallorca, although he didn’t play well, he worked like an animal, in the second half he did everything the team needed. He recovered balls and he was exhausted at the end of the game from so much work. That day, I said, “fantastic!” The team was above everything else… I told him after the game that working as he had in the second half that no one will touch him. And if any of you wants to touch him, we’re going to have a problem, because I won’t let you. Because someone who has worked the way he has does not have to score goals, does not have to be the man of the match. Working like that, no one will touch him.
Then there was this exchange between one journalist and Mou.
Antón Meana (Radio Marca): do you think there is a lot at stake for you tomorrow as a coach because you’re a winner, because you’ve beaten Barça in an elimination round with Inter? Is there a lot at stake for José Mourinho as a coach tomorrow?
Mou: what do you think?
Meana: I think there is a lot at stake.
Mou: how many titles do I have to win so that nothing will be at stake? Thirty?
Meana: no, it’s not that. I believe that tomorrow, there is a lot at stake for you as a coach in this elimination round. That’s my opinion.
Mou: and I’ll ask you, how many do you think I need to have won so that my life or my career wouldn’t be at stake in a game in a elimination round?
Meana: no, my question is…
Mou: no, my question is for you. How many titles do you think I have to win?
Meana: nothing more, you’re a great coach.
Mou: thank you. So there’s nothing at play. This game is like any other one. What is at play in each game is my own personal satisfaction, my personal happiness, whether I’ll be happy or sad on Thursday. That’s what is at stake on Wednesday. Against Bilbao, what’s at stake for me is whether I’m happy or sad on Monday, whether I’m content with myself and my team, or whether I’m frustrated or sad. Absolutely nothing else is at play.
All answers that have become instant classics, no? Mou also said that Ángel di María would be called up for the game, although he hasn’t recovered as well as expected, and that Ricardo Carvalho is about to reappear, as he’s needed in January, due to some players having accumulated four yellow cards.
Random things: check out the video Madrid’s web site posted to celebrate Álvaro Arbeloa’s 29th birthday (Jan. 17 – that’s why he loves the number 17). There’s some great footage of Álvaro playing with Castilla, including a shirtless Alvarito hugging FP, and his debut with Madrid (it’s Álvaro Mejía!). And of course, that segment with the future Cristiano, the adorable Gaspar of Palma, is included.
Speaking of Palma, here are more moments with Dimonío, including Gonzalo Higuaín calling him an ox, and the expression of glee on Esteban Granero’s face.
Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane and wife Veronique (before there was a Xabi & Nagore, there was already a Zinedine & Veronique, and all the same adjectives can be used to describe them – classy, elegant, etc.) were in Geneva to attend the IWC Top Gun Gala Event.
And to finish, statistics from Mister Chip.
– Madrid and Barça have played 216 official games. Madrid has won 86 times and Barcelona has won 85 times. If Barça wins tonight, they will be equal for the first time in 79 years.
– the two teams have faced each other 28 times in the Copa. For Madrid, the record has been 10-5-13. The first game was on March 26, 1916 (Barça won 2-1).
– the first title that Madrid and Barcelona disputed in a direct way was the final of the Copa in 1936. In that game, there was one of the best stops ever made in Spanish football. With Madrid leading 2-1 and six minutes left, Zamora stopped a shot from Escolá with an almost improbable dive.
– Santiago Bernabéu is the only player that has scored three or more goals in two Copa clásicos: he scored three on April 2, 1916 and four 11 days later. Paulino Alcántara, Samitier, Pruden, Barinaga and Eulogio Martínez have also scored hat tricks. The last hat trick (Eulogio Martínez) was 55 years ago.
– Barça has not won a Copa game in the Bernabéu against Madrid since July 11, 1968. Madrid has won twice (1970 and 1974) and tied twice (1993 and 1997).
– the team that plays the first leg game at home has a slight disadvantage. In the 22 double game elimination rounds between the two clubs, whoever plays the second game at home has qualified 64 percent of the time (14 out of 22). However, in the last four Copa elimination rounds (1962, 1970, 1993, 1997), the one who started at home has passed on.
– Madrid has started 14 double game elimination rounds against Barcelona at home (seven in the Copa, three in the Champions League, three in the Supercopa de España and one in the Copa de la Liga). They qualified six times (43 percent) and were eliminated eight times (57 percent). In the Copa, it’s more balanced – three qualifications for Madrid (1962, 1970, 1993) and four for Barcelona (1926, 1954, 1957, 1959).
– José Callejón and Leo Messi are the most effective players this season. Calleti scores a goal every 75 minutes and Messi 76. The players who rank third, fourth and fifth will also be at the game: Higuaín (85′), Cristiano (94′) and Benzema (101′).
– Pep Guardiola will become the third coach to celebrate his birthday with a clásico, and also the third to do it in an away game. Enrique Orizaola lost 3-2 in the Bernabéu during his 39th birthday (March 26, 1961) while Bernd Schuster got a wonderful 48th birthday present in the form of a 1-0 win at the Camp Nou on Dec. 23, 2007.
– Madrid has nine consecutive wins in the Copa, their longest streak for elimination rounds.
Because every post needs it, The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
Plus, a little note from me: I’m going to be quite busy in the upcoming weeks (new project at work), so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post during the next few weeks. I just wanted to alert you, in case you thought that I had been arrested following this weekend’s Real Madrid-Athletic game (which is a real possibility, because as you know, Javi Martínez (!!!!!!!!!!!) will be at the Bernabéu).