all set for APOEL!
Madrid takes on APOEL (20:45h) in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals (first leg: 3-0), and hopefully a meeting with Bayern Munich in the semifinals will be what we will be celebrating at around 22:45h tonight. After all, that means two more games this season where we’ll get to ogle Sergio and experience envy over that hair!
On Monday, the team began preparing for this Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinals second leg game against APOEL. Thirteen players from the first team and two from Castilla (Tomás Mejías and José Antonio Ríos) partook in the session. While Sergio, Marcelo, Esteban Granero, Xabi and Pipa Higuaín had a recovery session, Tomás and Antonio Adán did their goalkeeper exercises and the rest of the players – Pepe, Rafa Varane, Nuri Sahin, Altintop, Calleti, Di María, Kaká and Ríos – practiced with the ball. Iker, Cristiano, Karim, Arbeloa, Coentrão, Özil and Albiol got the day off, while Lass, Carvalho and Sami Khedira are still injured.
On Tuesday, the team picked up where they had left off the previous day, only more players joined in this time, as it was the last session before the game. Not training was Álvaro Arbeloa, and the injured Lass, Khedira and Carvalho. The rest of the team, including those players who had gotten Monday off, prepared for the game.
Twenty players were called up, with the injured players and Arbeloa (is Mou trying to help the further development of the Higuaín-Albiol bromance?) missing out.
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías.
Defenders: Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Coentrão, Albiol, Varane.
Midfielders: Sahin, Kaká, Özil, Granero, Alonso, Altintop, Callejón, Di María.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuaín.
José Mourinho and Pepe spoke to the press after the training session, with the following as the most interesting things that Mou said, in my opinion (as you can see, whenever he responds with an essay, I find it interesting. I also love the snippy answers).
on whether he’s planning on watching the Barça-Milan game tonight: I’m planning on watching Bayern, because that’s the team I believe will be our rival in the semifinals. That’s why it’s the most interesting game on today for me, and that’s why it’s the game I’m going to watch. Barça-Milan is a great game, also for the result of the first leg, perhaps it’s the most important game in these quarterfinals, but I’m not going to watch it.
on whether he prefers Kun or Higuaín: it’s a good question, but it’s a question based on an untrue front page story. That’s why I’m not going to comment on it… if I’m going to start commenting on news based on untrue information, we won’t have time to do anything else.
in response to questions about his technical decisions: the only thing I want is for the team to win, to play well, and from the beginning of the season we’ve been getting good results no matter who plays, and that’s the most important thing for me. In Pamplona, Xabi and Granero had a great game, and I’m the first one to be super happy for them. However, three days before that, in Cyprus, we played with Sahin and Khedira and those two also had a great game, the team also played well and won. That’s why it’s important for me that the people who play respond well, such as Abiol in Pamplona. That’s the most important thing for me [okay, we get it], that’s the strength of the group, the group that you all try to destabilize each day, the group that you all have new news about every day. Last week, it was reported that I had signed with City, that Di María had signed with someone, I don’t remember who, that Casillas was going to Schalke with Raúl, this week Higuaín is supposed to go to Málaga, and Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson are on their way here… but the group is strong, united, we’re the same as we were the first day, in December we didn’t buy or sell anyone, no one entered and no one left, and we’re going to be together until the end and on the last day, we’re going to cry together or celebrate together… tell me who on this team plays badly. If you tell me that Khedira and Xabi played well, then we’re in total agreement, and I’m as happy as you all are. But tell me who played badly. Khedira, is he playing poorly? Did Sahin play poorly in Cyprus? Who on this team played poorly? If you tell me there’s a guy who played poorly and continues to always start and play, good, but if all of them are responding positively… did Albiol play poorly in Pamplona? And Varane. When he plays, does he play poorly? I don’t see anyone playing poorly. That’s why I want everyone to play well and for the team to be able to respond positively.
on the absence of Lass: I’m worried about all the absences, because I like to have difficulties when it comes time to choose, not ease. Having Lassana, Ricardo and Khedira out makes it easier for me to choose, because I have three less to choose from. But I don’t like it, I like to have everyone available. I’ve been told that in principle, Lassana and Ricardo will join the group next Friday because they’re close to returning.
on Pepe and his reputation as a rough player: I don’t know why you’re asking me this question, because you all write what you want as if you know these persons personally. Then you ask questions that don’t make sense. This is like saying Cristiano has internal problems, that someone else is a saint, that Cristiano doesn’t get along with anyone… you all write what you want and then you ask questions and the questions lose meaning. What is said about Pepe is the same that is said about me, which is… Our family and our friends are the ones who know us, they can say and think what they want, and in the end Pepe’s family and friends are the ones privileged enough to know Pepe.
Mou also said he believes the silent response after the Liga games several weeks ago was the correct response.
Meanwhile, Pepe was asked about whether he had ever considered abandoning Madrid as a consequence of his disciplinary problems: “we all have defects, but I don’t believe I have any that prevents me from wearing the shirt of Real Madrid. I defend and honor this shirt with my body and soul. I’ve never considered leaving Madrid. I’m happy here, people love me and I love everyone. I just signed a new contract and I want to see it out.”
I loved these couple of tweets between Raúl Albiol and his little brother Brian, whose birthday it was yesterday. Raúl tweeted, “happy birthday brother!!! You’re 18 now, kiddo… I’m here with the great Pipa, who also wishes you a happy birthday, but in Argentine…” The next tweet continued, “it would go something like this… happy birthday cabeza de garnopa!!! Jaja.”
Quote of the day:
Now I understand why José Mourinho says the things he says when he comes here [to the Camp Nou] to play against them. Now I’ve experienced it in first person, and I understand it more and more.
– Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Viasat Fotboll after Barcelona and Milan’s Champions League quarterfinal game.
Another one of our legends, José María Zárraga, has passed away at the age of 81. The Basque midfielder played for Madrid during the 1950s and 1960s, and won five European Cups and six Ligas while playing 306 games for the club. Madrid will wear black armbands as a sign of mourning, and also honor him with a moment of silence before the game. Meanwhile, the Fondo Sur and all those who sit there have prepared a special tribute to Juanito, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, April 2, 1992, in addition to the usual chant of “¡Illa, illa, illa, Juanito maravilla!” heard during the seventh minute of each game.
Here are a couple of photos of Zárraga and just a few of the trophies he won. Can you tell who are the other two men in the photo on the left? And I have to say, I absolutely love the vintage shirts and how clean they look, with just the escudo on them. I wish Madrid could be like the NBA and have throwback nights.
A couple weeks ago, Audi took Kaká and Xabi Alonso for a spin in the new Audi Q5 hybrid, and challenged them to see who could be more efficient and use less fuel during the circuit. Xabi won the coin toss and got to drive first, but in the end, it was Kaká who won the contest by using 6.7 liters per 100 kilometers (Xabi measured in at 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers).
During the test, the players spoke about their team and themselves. Kaká and Xabi both admitted to being competitive and with each other for this contest, but since they’re teammates, it’s a friendly competitiveness. When Kaká was asked who he thought would win the test, he said he’s seen Xabi drive several times, and he drives very fast. Xabi, meanwhile, said Kaká has “this tranquility, this control, both on and off the field, which will probably work better with this car.”
During Kaká’s turn to drive, Xabi was asked what Ricky is like. Although a bit reluctant to talk about him in front of him, Xabi said he’s been a great addition to the team, with his permanent smile, and that he’s very happy and open. Kaká described the team as very “united” and Xabi as a “leader who is always speaking, telling people things, supporting everyone…,” to which Xabi responded that sometimes he’s told to talk a little less. Xabi also said the team is a very happy one, and one that loves to joke around, and adds that it’s a very normal team. [And, he looks great in the Ray-Ban sunglasses!]
When asked which player they’d like to play with, Kaká said Pelé, while Xabi chose Zidane, whom he has played against, but never with, and who is someone he admires a lot. As for the season, Xabi said they’re satisfied with how they’ve played up to now, but there is the last sprint where they;ll have to play as well as they have to make this season into a great one.
Cristiano Ronaldo recently gave an interview to Portuguese TV channel TVI, which you can watch here. Here are some highlights which were translated by the Spanish press, but if there are any Portuguese speakers out there who would be willing to look over the rest of the interview and see if there are any more interesting parts, let me know!
on whether he fusses over his image: not a lot, I like to dress well, I like to look nice all the time, but really, not a lot, except for those basic things that all men should do.
on his son: before I had him, I thought, “will my life change?” And the truth is my life did change, for the better. He turns around and calls me “papá,” and that’s something that melts me completely… it’s a fantastic experience. I’m going to encourage him to be a footballer, I would like him to be a footballer. I’ll encourage him a bit, but if he doesn’t have the capacity to be one, he’ll be what he wants to be.
[Cris talks a lot more about his son than what’s translated here, hopefully someone can help to translate the rest!]
on his wedding plans: no, not that. Not yet. I’ll get married one day, but right now it’s not part of my plans. I don’t know if I’ll have more kids, but I’d like to. I come from a big family so we’ll see…