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all set for APOEL!

March 27, 2012

Tonight, we take one more step (hopefully forward) on the road towards La Décima, when Madrid plays its first official game in Cyprus in club history against APOEL (20:45).  ¡A “po” ellos!

The team returned to training on Sunday, and then traveled to Cyprus later that afternoon.  Nineteen players were called up for the game.  Di María (muscle injury in his right leg), Callejón (sprained right ankle), Carvalho (muscle tear to right thigh) and Lass (pain in his right leg) are missing out due to injury (we don’t seem to have very much luck on our right side, no?), while Xabi didn’t travel as he’s sanctioned for this game.

Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.

Defenders: Varane, Arbeloa, Marcelo, Ramos, Albiol, Coentrão, Pepe.

Midfielders: Altintop, Sahin, Khedira, Özil, Granero, Kaká.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Benzema.

As you can see, as the camera panned around, the players were required to pose like this.  Do you think Mesut Özil was feigning sleep so he wouldn’t have to do it?  Kaká didn’t look too happy about it either, while Tomás Mejías just pretended he didn’t know what was going on.  Meanwhile, Karim Benzema loved it!  He’s never met a pose he didn’t like, no?

In the end, the photographers managed to catch Mesut awake, and he was forced into the pose.  Meanwhile, the newest bromance of El Chori and Pipita sat together, and presumably chatted about life.

The team arrived in Lanarca at around 22h on Sunday night, after a four-hour long flight.  They then boarded a bus, which took them to Nicosia and their hotel, the Hilton Cyprus.  At the airport, Cris looked silly in his hat (it looks like he has a pot on his head) while Álvaro Arbeloa was glued to his phone (also see here, here and here).

And for some reason, the photographer made Sergio pose like a tourist outside the airport.  I want that hair.

On Monday, José Mourinho and Sami Khedira spoke to the press, per UEFA regulations (as TVE is broadcasting the game, they have the right to interview the coach and a player, but both sides came to an agreement not to do that, so we didn’t get to hear from Madrid before this press conference).  Aitor Karanka and Rui Faria were also in the press room, watching.

As expected, the first question was about the self-imposed silence that Madrid has been on all last week: “why did you impose the law of silence in Real Madrid?”  Mou’s response: “that’s not true.”  He then made sure the translator understood his response so that she could translate it correctly (he asked, “did you understand my response?”).  The next question was “why did neither you nor Karanka nor any player speak after the games?”  Mou: “I don’t have to justify anything.  To add to the response that I gave earlier, I’m not the one responsible for the silence and I wasn’t the one who made made that decision.”  These statements directly contradicted Emilio Butragueño’s statement to TVE on Saturday that the silence “is a position taken by the coaching team and the players to avoid more tension.”

A similar question on whether the silence would adversely affect the relationship of the club with its fans followed.  Mou just said, “next question.”  He also told Juan Camilo Andrade, Madrid’s press officer, to make sure that he wouldn’t get any more non-CL related questions.  Since he wasn’t going to answer any more questions about that issue, the journalists could only ask about the upcoming game, to which Mou said, “my feeling is that it will be a difficult match.  If we can win, we won’t come out to get a tie.  The second leg will be easier, as it’s in our natural habitat.”  Even with CL questions, Mou wasn’t happy, and he kept looking at his watch.

Mou also helped to translate questions for Sami, such as when the latter was asked about the absence of Xabi.  Sami replied, “Xabi is very important for us, but we have other quality players such as Sahin, Granero or Coentrão.  We’ll miss Xabi, but we’re strong enough.  It’s a new situation for us not to have him on the field, but we don’t have any problems, we’re going to win and that’s that.”

When Sami was asked (by a journalist from Radio Marca) if the team would speak to the press after this game against APOEL, Sami didn’t respond immediately and looked towards his coach and the club’s press officer.  They exchanged a few words, and then Mou asked if that was the last question, and when he got affirmation that it was, he stood up, shook the translator’s hand – while she was in the midst of translating the question – and left the press room.  Sami then said “what do I have to say, we just have to play and that’s that” and then he too got up and followed his coach out the door (but not before also shaking the translator’s hand).  It was great hearing Sami speak Spanish; his accent is quite good!

Meanwhile, Esteban Solari was the player chosen by APOEL to face the press.  When asked if his brother Santi had said anything to him, Esteban responded, “everyone knows that he’s a madridista.  I’m sure he wants Madrid to win the Champions League, but in some way his heart is divided and there’s a place for his brother and APOEL.”  On the day of the draw, he had said, “(Santi) loves me a lot, but his heart is madridista.  He won a European championship wearing that shirt, and that marks you for life.  But I suppose that if we surprise them, he won’t be too upset.  In any case, the family will be happy.”  Do you see the resemblance?

Later that day, Madrid trained at GSP Stadium.  While the players were warming up, it was curious to see how they divided themselves.  The four players with ties to Germany were together, then the two French players, then the five Spanish speaking players (Argentine and Spaniards) and then finally the five Portuguese speakers.  During that time, Sergio imitated Rafa Nadal, much to the delight of the others.  And notice Gonzalo and Raúl sticking together.

A couple more pictures of the boys looking adorable and sunny at the session… (You think Marcelo deliberately matched his headband to his shirt?)

… and Cris showing off his legs.

Meanwhile, Xabi was back in Madrid enjoying the sunny weather in the capital.  He tweeted, “Madrid. Sun shines. Terrace. Cafe con hielo, por favor [coffee with ice, please].”

Over in Castilla, they beat Toledo 1-0 on Sunday thanks to a goal from Joselu, who had only come in as a substitute with about 20 minutes left.  Fifteen minutes later, he converted Dani Carvajal’s pass into a goal, his 15th of the season.

Speaking of Joselu, here’s a little interview I was asked to translate, from several months ago.

It’s neither Raúl nor Santillana nor Puskas nor Gento nor Hugo Sánchez nor Cristiano Ronaldo.  The most effective goalscorer in Real Madrid’s history is Joselu.  He was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and is the current pichichi of Castilla with 12 goals after his hat trick against Coruxo [Feb. 5].    

On German: I have no idea how to speak German, I came here when I was three.  Joselu is… happy, content, I like to always be joking around.  I’m always joking around with Jorge Casado, with Nacho, with the redhead… A pet phrase: “La verdad que…” (the truth is…).  On the hat trick: I never scored three goals as a professional, and la verdad que I was quite happy with the game.  This is how he scored his two goals with the first team, he came on in the 85th minute against Almería, and two minutes later, after a pass from Cristiano, he scored his first goal.  I’ll always remember that.  Against Ponferradina, it was more of the same – one minute on the field, a pass from Callejón and goal.  Who did Joselu admire when he was small?  I’ve always liked Fernando Torres since the time I was small, he was a player I loved when he was with Atleti, and I had the luck of meeting him during my last year in Vigo when he was recovering from his knee injury.  I hope he returns to his top form.  A left leg: A left leg?  Negredo.  A right leg.  Villa.  Power.  Torres.  A head.  Llorente.… The most intelligent forward I’ve seen?  I think it’s Raúl.  The one who has most established his authority.  I like Benzema.  Against Getafe B [Feb. 12], Joselu would like a new opportunity… I have it clear that our team is Castilla … to continue making a case for himself for the first team.    

And after his game on Sunday, Ruud van Nistelrooy told SER that “of course I’m still a madridista.  I had some tremendous years there, and the people there gave me an impressive welcome when I returned with Málaga, and I like it a lot.”  He also said he and his family are all looking forward to experiencing Semana Santa in Andalucía!

Check out this video from TVE of the Bernabéu being built!  I like the scenes of the priest blessing the stadium, and it’s very strange to see how empty the area around the stadium used to be!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. manie permalink
    March 27, 2012 15:21

    My favorite part of the training video was Pipa never shutting up! What a talker.

    I am kind of nervous for the game. But I’m happy that the club (I assume it’s the club, and not just Mou) has deflected attention off the players, the team, how we’re playing, onto silly trivial things that occupy the press. I’d like to think we’ve put Villarreal behind us, but I am happy the press isn’t focusing on that right now. I love having Mourinho here!

  2. March 27, 2012 15:23

    hala madrid! i can’t watch this match (work) so i will be furiously updating twitter and to see real-time results.

    i don’t know who esteban solari is, as sadly i know very little about our opposition today, but he’s quite easy on the eyes, no? 🙂

    i love that mesut tried to rebel against the curse of the thumbs up photographer, but eventually succumbed to it in the end. and i love pipa’s rebellion with a slight variation on the pose, jaja. i am very curious to know why pipa and albiol are spending so much time together lately, and what happened with arbeloa! 😉

    that photo of marcelo during practice is adorable! and that photo xabi took is so cool … very ‘him’. i love it.

    you’re right about the hat on CR7 … it DOES look like a pot. he looks like a backstreet boy. it is not a good look. sergio’s purple bag makes me laugh. he won’t lose that in a crowd, will he?! i hope iker doesn’t get any ideas …

    as for the presser, in a way, i feel for mou as it’s a tough spot to be in. on the other hand, he brought a lot of it on himself, and so my sympathy is limited. i really feel for sami, being put in an awkward spot like that, but he handled it with grace as best he could.

    here’s to a good match!

    • unamadridista permalink*
      March 29, 2012 15:01

      Esteban is Santiago Solari’s little brother. Santi played with us between 2000 and 2005, winning titles and at one point, “the best looking player in the Liga award.” Plus, he lived near the Prado and purchased an annual pass so that he could “visit” Tintoretto once in a while, AND his cousin is Fernando Redondo (one of my favorites), so what’s not to like?

  3. Ally permalink
    March 27, 2012 15:30

    that picture Xabi tweeted is just so.. Xabi. The perfect composition of a pair of shades, coffee and icecubes just screams pure class, I don’t know why 🙂
    Yes! my country will finally broadcast a real madrid match 😀 I love “a po’ ellos!” it’s a very creative use of language

  4. March 27, 2012 16:50

    HALA MADRID and here’s to La Decima!!!

  5. wandering-much permalink
    March 28, 2012 02:39

    I really love those kits. The boys look good in blue, don’t they?

    Thanks for this beautiful post Una!

  6. March 28, 2012 05:59

    Love the pre game stuff and now that we know the boys were up for the task I cant wait for your wrap up of beautiful Cyprus. Hope everyone received some nice Olives!
    Looks like Munich is up next which will be great as a testing ground for the final 🙂

  7. Marie permalink
    March 28, 2012 09:55

    Sami doesn’t look particularly eager to walk out of the press conference. Hopefully they can keep the sound of the drama to at least a dull roar… Love Sergio’s Rafa impression! Wonder if he’s been watching the tennis.

  8. Pipita permalink
    March 28, 2012 10:41

    I really think it’s the other way around, that the camera man is sick of the players always giving the thumbs up.

    No one is forcing anyone to do it! 🙂

  9. Jenny permalink
    March 28, 2012 18:22

    Actually I have to disagree with you Una –

    “These statements directly contradicted Emilio Butragueño’s statement to TVE on Saturday that the silence “is a position taken by the coaching team and the players to avoid more tension.”

    – they do not directly contradict. To directly contradict the statement, Butragueño would have had to have said it was Mourinho’s decision. He didn’t, he said it was a position taken by the coaching team and players (ie., a collective decision)!

    I realize this kills the Spanish press, who have it in for Mourinho, but that is not a position one can honestly take from these two statements. They do not say the same thing, but neither do they contradict. There is a fine difference.

    I was impressed by Sami’s Spanish! Why hasn’t he talked before now? I want Nuri to do a press conference next since he’s always talked about how much he loves learning Spanish.

  10. amouria permalink
    March 30, 2012 10:53

    great post

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