A sideways look at Spanish football
Riveting, engrossing, shocking, stunning, sensational. Five words that describe José Mourinho’s press conference after Tuesday’s Champions League clash, as well as the 90-odd minutes of football that preceded.
Well, about 15 minutes perhaps –15 minutes that helped paper over what was by no means a boring match, but by no means a thriller between the champions of Spain and England. Unless, that is, you get your juices flowing by watching tight midfield threes ram up against each other.
Speaking after the game, a feisty and animated Mourinho seemed to be just as turned on by the fantastic finale as much as anyone else, which is unsurprising considering Wednesday’s headlines and match reports were rapidly rewritten in the space of seconds in the Santiago Bernabeu – much to delight of the hack-hating coach, who twice taunted the Spanish press pack for having to scrap what they had in plan for Real Madrid, what with his side having twice been behind.
“I was expecting the critics,” smarted the Madrid manager. “‘'You are mad', 'You play Varane instead of Ramos', 'You leave the creative players out'. 'Higuaín has no record of goals in the Champions League', 'Coentrao is fresher than Marcelo’. I know it all,” said Madrid’s Mr Clever Pants.
Indeed, the Portuguese seemed to take greater pleasure in messing with the local journalists’ heads than winning the three points in Group D, which were picked up through the tried and tested tactical approach of throwing everything at the opposition and waiting for what traditionally happens to any English goalkeeper given enough pressure and time.
Alternatively, writes Mad Tomás Roncero in AS, who really did seem to enjoy himself during the victory, all that Real Madrid had to do was stick a drinking straw into that never-say-die spirit which makes the club the bestest ever in the world. “[The crowd] knew that the 11 giants that defend this sacred badge are capable of achieving the impossible.”
"How d'you like me now?"
But whilst the next few days in Capital City will be spent poring over the tea-leaves about Sergio Ramos being benched and Michael Essien playing instead of Mesut Özil or Luka Modric, LLL will move swiftly onto Málaga.
The Andalucians arguably put in the performance of the night with a 3-0 win over Zenit to send the Málaga massive doolally – none more so than the team’s owners, who have discovered a debt-reducing human sacrifice called Isco, who scored a truly brilliant brace against the big-spending Ruskies. “It’s been a magical night,” opined the playmaker. “A debut in la Rosaleda and 3-0. You can’t ask for more.”
The Catalan press certainly are. Fuelling LLL's ‘two papers, one brain’ theory, both Mundo Deportivo and Sport lead with the thought that Barça are planning their third trip to Wembley, and intend to make it three wins from the three at the stadium.
There will be a familiar figure on the bench. Not Tito Vilanova, whose face has yet to implant itself in LLL’s brain, but Spartak Moscow gaffer Unai Emery, whom the blog badly misses and who won’t return increasingly desperate emails or calls.
Meanwhile Emery’s old team Valencia are involved in a humdinger of a clash against Bayern Munich, an outfit now containing Javi Martínez which is the dominating factor from the Spanish perspective. Two more great games in what has already been a chuffingly good Champions League session.
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