all set for Málaga!
Continuing where we left off with the last post and the spectacular streak of our forwards, both Cristiano and Gonzalo Higuaín have a chance to reach a centennial tonight against Málaga (21:30h). Cris could score his 100th goal in the Liga in this game; he’s currently at 99, and it only took him 89 games to get there (the fastest scorer to reach that mark is Puskas, but it took him 105 games). Meanwhile, Pipa has scored 98 goals in all competitions as a Real Madrid player. Since our front line is doing so well, it’s no wonder that we’ve scored 88 goals so far, for an average of 3.3 per game. If we continue at this pace, we’ll hit 129 before the season is over, pulverizing the current record of 107.
Also of note: Málaga is one of 27 teams that have played in the first division to have never won at the Bernabéu. The club has played 30 games and has a record of 0-5-25, with 18 goals in favor and 72 against. Hopefully this streak will continue! Plus, I can’t wait to see the reunion between Santi Cazorla and Iker!
On Friday, after one day off, the team returned to training to begin preparing for Sunday’s Liga game against Málaga. Fábio Coentrão rejoined the group, meaning that José Mourinho had 22 players from the first team (can’t wait until he has everyone!) and four from Castilla (Tomy, Casado, Jesé and MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín) to bark orders at.
Lots of the players posed for the cameras as they came out onto the field, including Sergio and his “great friend ‘Piratoski.'” I really do wonder what other nicknames our boys have for each other.
The team held one more training session on Saturday morning. This time, there were 21 players from the first team (the absences were Di María and Raúl Albiol, who is suffering from the flu) plus Tomás Mejías taking part. During the 15 minutes that the session was open to the press, the players, divided up among four teams, participated in some kind of warm-up/exercise/drill or combination of those three that involved tossing, kicking and rolling the ball. Mou was seen instructing Marcelo on how to carry out this activity before it started.
I love Marcelo!!!!!!
Nineteen players were called up for the game. In addition to the two injured/sick players, three more are missing out on the game due to the coach’s decision: Varane, Altintop and Coentrão.
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.
Defenders: Pepe, Arbeloa, Marcelo, Carvalho, Ramos.
Midfielders: Sahin, Lass, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Özil, Granero, Callejón, Kaká.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema.
Mou had the following to say at his press conference, with a little barb thrown at the journalists after too many questions about APOEL: “in the last three days, I’ve watched three Málaga games, and you all continue asking me about APOEL. Tomorrow we have a game against the fourth team in the table, not the last one, the fourth, against a team that is currently classified for the Champions, a team that could have beaten us here in the Copa, who have quality players, who are coming here not on vacation, but to hurt us. Questions about Málaga, or we’re leaving.” He’s right, there’s plenty of time before we face APOEL, and right now it’s time to concentrate on the Liga, since Málaga won’t be “an easy party.” By the way, when answering a previous question, Mou said he played against APOEL with Inter three years ago, but in fact, his team had played against Anorthosis; he mixed the two of them up!
on the fans at the Bernabéu: I’m not envious of San Mamés [I am, they get to watch Javi (!!!) all the time!]. These are cultural or social matters that each club, each city or each country has. It’s like that, and it can’t be changed. I’ll stick with our fans. I’ll stick with the passion that our fans show all around the world for their addiction to Real Madrid. I’ll stick with the almost full or full Bernabéu in each game, even in the Copa when we’re facing rivals from lower categories. I’m not criticizing anyone, I just think it’s part of my job to find the best conditions for success for my players and the best conditions for success for them are feeling the affection, the loyalty, that they can make a mistake and still be supported, that they can be playing a bad game and the fans are still behind them. I also believe that’s my job. Being critical is not my job, and I can’t do that and I haven’t even thought about doing that. As I said after the game, I’m not anyone to criticize anyone. But I also think it’s the job of a coach to bring about the best conditions for his players. We’re not playing for everything at the moment, but in the upcoming two months, we can win two very important championships. The games at home are absolutely fundamental, and I’m going to continue asking for a bit more affection. It’s not for me, I repeat it’s not for me, since I don’t like to hear my name sung, I don’t like that at all, but I’m asking for a bit more for my people, those people who can have difficult moments in games. The goalkeeper who makes a great save or the one who scores a great goal may not need the affection, but the one that makes a mistake, squanders a goal opportunity or makes a bad pass does. I’m going to continue asking for this type of affection and empathy between the people and the fans. But if I had to choose fans, I would choose mine, since for each game there are 80,000 and they’re the ones that make Madrid the powerful club that it is economically and in terms of sports.
on Nuri Sahin: the natural alternative for Xabi Alonso is any of the players in the midfield. It’s Sahin, Granero, Lassana… any of them is an option. Nuri has been called up for the second consecutive game and he’s not called up to sit in the stands, because I’m only going to call up the 18 players that will be on the field and on the bench. It’s a second call-up for him which shows his evolution in these past few weeks. His future is to continue working as he has. He’s an exemplary professional, a fantastic boy. He’s staying here, he will be here next season and more is expected of him that what we managed to get out of him this season. He’s a player that we have confidence in, and the stories about how he’s going to leave, how he’s going there or there or how we’re going to loan him out, are simply that, stories.
on Eric Abidal: if we can display any type of support tomorrow, our players will do it… but in these moments, without the need for words or displays, this is the type of thing where there’s no “blanco” or “azulgrana” or “rojo.” There’s a young man for whom the most important thing is to have a fantastic life, because what he’s done up to now in terms of sports has been a lot, he doesn’t have to do anything more to have a fantastic career that he’ll be proud of, but he has his life in front of him, which is what all of us want. If he can play again, we’ll be happy to see him do that and we’ll be there to applaud him… but the most important thing is for him to have a long and happy life.
[It looks like Madrid’s players will come out for the game wearing t-shirts with a message of support for Eric. Last season, when it was confirmed that Abidal would need surgery to remove a tumor in his liver, Madrid and Lyon (his former team) had wanted to show their support for him before their Champions League game. UEFA would not allow them, so after the game, they put on shirts with messages of support. The fans in the Bernabéu gave Abidal a minute and a half ovation.]
on whether these are his happiest days in Real Madrid: last year, at this time we had almost won a title, I don’t remember the exact day, it was in April, no? (Someone shouts out April 20.) April 20. Last year on April 20, we had a title in our hands, and this year we have nothing. We’re good, we’re in the quarterfinals of the Champions and the leaders in the Liga, but at the moment, nothing, we don’t have anything.
The team began the concentración later that night.
As Raúl Albiol missed out on the call-up due to sickness, he and Pipita were unable to have their now customary chat about life at the hotel during the concentración. But they didn’t let that stop them, and spoke by phone. Gonzalo tweeted (here and here), “good evening friends. I hope you all are well and have had a great day. This is to let you know that I spoke with Albiol on the phone about life, filling his head, let’s see if he brings me luck once again, jajajaja!!! Well, good night!! I had to cut him off because he became annoying… good night.” El Chori’s response was this: “after listening to Pipa… my fever has gotten worse… he continues to think I bring him luck, what a nightmare!! We hope that he’ll score again tomorrow.” This is certainly an unexpected pairing, but a great one, no? And anyone who makes Pipita tweet more is wonderful!
On Thursday, Karim Benzema and Iker Casillas traveled to Frankfurt to be unveiled as Hyundai’s ambassadors for the 2012 Eurocopa (Hyundai is one of the main sponsors of the tournament). Both were looking good, no? That means there must have been a dress code and they were told what to wear instead of allowed to dress themselves (had that been the case, Iker would have worn a plaid shirt and Karim a vest). Anyway, our boys were joined by Lukas Podolski, Giuseppe Rossi and Daniel Sturridge on “Team Hyundai.” During the event, Iker said the following.
on Mesut Özil: he’s a phenomenon, a great talent, a very important player for us, and he’s going to become one of the best in the world, if he’s not already. He’ll be talked about for many years. The club did well in signing him.
on Cristiano: I’ve never seen a player at that level. It’s not that I was surprised but… well, yes, yes, he surprised me. I knew he was a crack, but… ¡ufff! What he is doing is out of this world. His numbers are incredible, and he’s surpassed players such as Ronaldo, Ronaldo, the Brazilian one, and the truth is I never thought he would get this far this soon and take on this role on the team. I was able to enjoy the other Ronaldo, who was a genius, but Cristiano… he’s surpassed him. We hope he won’t be at this level in the Eurocopa if he plays against us.
on whether he discusses the Eurocopa with his non-Spanish teammates: sometimes yes, but not everyday because what interests us now are the club competitions. We speak with Cristiano, Karim, the Germans. We’re always trash talking a bit. But the joking around is affectionate.
Watch a making of video here.
Also in the last few days, Real Madrid has announced three new socios de honor: Fernando Alonso, our former goalkeeper Julio Iglesias and Sergio García. None of them has ever hidden their madridismo.
Many of our players sent messages of support to Eric Abidal, after it was announced that he will be undergoing a liver transplant. Raúl Albiol tweeted, “a lot of encouragement for Eric Abidal, I hope he recovers quickly and can once again enjoy life and football.” Iker posted this message on his Facebook: “all the encouragement in the world for a fellow footballer. It doesn’t matter what color the shirt you defend is, the most important thing is the person. Mucha fuerza Abidal!” Sergio Ramos’ tweet read: “I want to send all the encouragement and support in the world to a fellow footballer, Eric Abidal.” Meanwhile, Esteban Granero expressed himself in this way: “a hug and my best wishes for Abidal.” Pepe wrote, “Just heard the recent news about Abidal and I would like to wish him all the luck and that we all be praying for the best.” And Pipa tweeted, “this message is for Abidal! Stay strong! The shirt is not the important thing right now. Everything will turn out well for you! A big hug.” A lot of the Castilla boys tweeted their best wishes as well, and Zinedine Zidane said “I know him well, and I know he’ll come out of this stronger.”
Xabi also tweeted on Thursday. He said, “Zorionak Athletic (congratulations Athletic). Very deserved.”
And we got the latest photo from Gustaff Choos, that of The Benz! What a pout!
In other news, if you’re planning on traveling to Madrid at the beginning of April and would like to watch Madrid take on APOEL, the prices for tickets for that game have been reduced by 22 to 50 percent, in comparison with the CSKA Moscow game. That means the cheapest tickets, in the cuarto anfiteatro, now cost €30, while tickets in one of the laterales are about €125 and in the fondos €80 (the discounts are higher for socios). Madrid has taken this step so that the stadium can be filled for the game, since the date coincides with the beginning of the Easter vacation. Tickets go on sale for holders of the carnet madridista starting on March 25 and for the general public on March 26.
If you go to that game, you’ll get to see Esteban Solari, younger brother of one of my longtime favorites (and former most handsome player of the Liga winner), Santi Solari, play, as he’s a forward with APOEL! I hope Santi will be at the game!
And my best wishes for a swift recovery for Fabrice Muamba; the scene at the White Hart Lane was reminiscent of the circumstances in which Rubén de la Red collapsed in Irún, something I never wanted to see again.