all set for Racing!
Real Madrid continues their stay in the capital tonight against Racing (20h), and while Marcelo won’t be in the goal (unfortunately; look how fun he makes it!), it will still be an exciting game!
Let’s say a little prayer for no allowed early goals…
Looking ahead to the game, Sergio Canales’ cousin Borja Docal, who plays for Racing B, has been called up for this game and will conceivably be on the Racing bench at the Bernabéu.
There was a nice article in AS about the friendship between José Mourinho and one of the men he’ll be facing on Saturday, Racing’s team doctor Javier Ceballos (aka Cali). Actually, the story involves a third man as well, the current coach of third division team Pontejos, José Manuel Gómez Solana (aka Boli). It started when Mou arrived in Barcelona. He became friends with a Catalan doctor, Josep Borell, who was a friend and former teacher of Dr. Ceballos. He told Ceballos, “Cali, the next time you come I have to introduce you to a friend, he’s exactly the same as you.” And that’s how it started. Cali and Mou would often go out to eat and or have coffee together in Barcelona and Santander. Borrell was right, because the two of them were the same: visceral, direct, sincere, and with a similar vision of the world that divided it into friends and enemies. Meanwhile, Solana was a scout for Racing at the time. Since he also shared those qualities, he and Mou hit it off. So, each time Barça played in Santander, Mou would call his two friends. Back then, the famous one was Cali, who was a renowned doctor in the city. After José returned to Portugal, they didn’t see each other as often, but they kept in touch. Last year, Racing’s players teased Cali on the way to the Bernabéu: “how can you be a friend of Mou!” When they saw each other, they hugged and Mou told Real Madrid’s employees, “whatever Dr. Ceballos asks for, consider it as if I had asked for it.”
As for the relationship between Real Madrid and Cantabria, well 19 players from that province have played for Madrid, including legends such as Paco Gento, Santillana (real name: Carlos Alonso González; his nickname was taken from the Cantabrian town he’s from, Santillana del Mar, a lovely place) or Marquitos (grandfather of Marcos Alonso). Recent players who have suited up for Madrid include Iván Helguera, Pedro Munitis and of course Sergio Canales. Between the 19 players, there are 17 European Cups/Champions Leagues and 51 Ligas, and eight of them have played more than 100 games with Madrid. Of note: each time Madrid has won the European Cup/Champions League, there has been a player from Cantabria on the team. While this is a lovely piece of trivia, let’s hope it can be broken this year.
As for team news over the past several days, on Thursday, the team trained once again as they continued preparations for Saturday’s game against Racing. Four Castilla players (Jesé, MFC ABMM, Álex and Tomás Mejías) joined 20 members of the first team. Lass and Gonzalo worked out indoors, while Hamit Altintop was still doing recovery work.
Nevertheless, it appears that the team spent the majority of the time posing and making hand gestures, even Mou.
Following the training session, Pepe, Marcelo, El Pirata and Antonio participated in a clinic organized by Bwin, which was called “Train for Real” (nice pun) at Valdebebas. The four footballers trained with some Madrid fans and also played with and against them. They also of course signed autographs and posed for pictures. The best player of the event received a shirt signed by everyone on the first team. Esteban said afterward that “it’s fun to be with people who enjoy playing football as much as we do.” Meanwhile, Marcelo did some scouting work and observed, “some of those who trained with us could make it.”
Of course Marcelo was the life of the party. He was not only the shining presence in the group photos (look at those cheeky expressions!)…
… but he also put on the gloves and substituted for Antonio in the goal! Antonio, meanwhile, tried out his luck as a leftback.
The four of them also had some things to say as to the latest happenings with Madrid. Marcelo assured everyone that “the joy and good atmosphere that we have make us stronger in each training session. I don’t know if we’re playing at higher level than we were last year, but what we want to do is improve in each training session and in each game.” Pepe, meanwhile, had a message for the fans: “I would tell our fans to continue supporting us because each day we make more effort to win. We’re working hard to win titles.” Antonio continued, “the fans are a very important part of this group. The 80,000 spectators and the people that are at home cheering the team on are those who push us so that the result is favorable for us in each game.”
In a chat at the offices of newspaper El País, Vicente del Bosque was asked if he would go pick up the medal that he is due to receive from Real Madrid. VDB’s response: “I understand perfectly the affection the club and the people have towards me, but I also have my peculiarities, so allow me to make a decision from the depths of my soul. I of course don’t want to bother the directors, the socios or anyone in the great family of Real Madrid, but allow me to make a decision that many people won’t like.” He also found the time to get all grandfatherly with some students from the Lycée Français who were on a visit to the newspaper.
On Friday morning, the team held its last session before the game. Gonzalo Higuaín returned to the fold after spending the last several days in the gym (lucky gym). He was one of the 20 first team players paraded before the photographers at Valdebebas. The session also included Tomás Mejías. Xabi Alonso, meanwhile, had permission to be absent for personal reasons (he attended the funeral of his grandmother in Donostia), while Lass once again worked out inside and Hamit Altintop continued to try and get better.
The Marcelo Show continued, and I loved this cute little moment between Marcelo Sunshine and Pipita, who got a hug and kiss from the former.
Not to be outdone, the bromance of Gonzalo and Calleti also had its moment, while Iker and Manolín also got up close and personal.
It looked like Iker just wanted to be carried around all day, because he ended up on Esteban’s back too (maybe they were recreating the double José horse-riding moment?).
Lots and lots of evidence as to the good atmosphere the players keep referring to, no?
There weren’t any surprises on the list of players called up for the game. Lass and Altintop did not make it due to injury, while Álvaro Arbeloa is suspended for this encounter due to too many cards.
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.
Defenders: Carvalho, Varane, Albiol, Pepe, Coentrão, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos.
Midfielders: Di María, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Özil, Callejón, Sahin, Granero, Kaká.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema.
As Xabi was absent, there weren’t any photos for The Xabi Alonso pose section™, but here’s one for The Sergio Ramos hair envy section.
José Mourinho’s press conference after the session was quite devoid of controversy and irony (per his standards). His remarks were quite calm and respectful. Regarding the upcoming game, he announced that there won’t be many changes or rotations. With regards to Ángel di María, Mou said he was ready to play against Levante, but they decided to rest him for several more days. As for Nuri Sahin, “only 10 can play and there are 20.”
The press did their best to get some headline quotes from Mou. When asked about a possible pasillo in the Camp Nou, our coach responded, “I would like to win the championship tomorrow, but it’s not possible. I also don’t think it’s possible to win it before playing at the Camp Nou. For me, it’s stupid to say that we’re going to accumulate a 15-point lead against a team like Barcelona…. We’re not looking for records, the alirón – that’s how you say it, alirón, no? – the alirón in the Camp Nou, the pasillo, we’re not looking for any of these stupidities. If we win the Liga by one point, it’s something to celebrate… it will be something fantastic for us.”
And when asked (by a Catalan journalist) about that episode where he was photographed waiting for Teixeira in the párking of Camp Nou, Mou responded, “I was very polite and tranquil on the basis of what had happened earlier and I’m proud of that. I was extremely polite with Mister Teixeira.” He also continued to refuse to speak about his future (“I said last week I wasn’t going to talk about it”).
The team gathered later that night at the Bernabéu to begin the concentración.
As for tweets, on Wednesday, Raúl Albiol tweeted that “tomorrow, there is a weigh-in for some….” Seconds later, he followed up with “Adán The Observer is watching you, don’t eat dessert!” I never knew that Raúl and Antonio were so close; many of Raúl tweets thus far have mentioned Antonio!
Meanwhile, The Three Musketeers of Castilla – MFC ABMM, Álex and Dani Carvajal – had lunch together in between training sessions, and we got this adorable little photo of them (with a fourth musketeer).
And head here for a translation of Sami and Lena’s appearance in the latest issue of GQ Germany, courtesy of the lovely girls over at the Sami Khedira LiveJournal community. I love this quote from Sami, because it’s so true: “… when you have an appointment with a Spaniard at half past seven then it really means half past nine. Half an hour late, that’s really very punctual here.” Jajaja!!!! I would even venture to say that one hour late is more than acceptable, and people are always “on their way” or “almost there!”
While over there, I also found this photo of Sami, which, well, is just begging to be shared. Also something that should be shared? Sami’s shirt after games. He just needs to always take it off.