A sideways look at Spanish football
Cristiano Ronaldo must have woken up with the most despairing of sighs of Wednesday. Not because there was an early sign of zittage forming on his face ahead of a huge night at the Santiago Bernabéu, but because the Madridista world was baying for more blood, sweat and stay-fast gel from their superstar.
The Real Madrid man has spent the past couple of months dutifully responding to questions on how it feels to be playing Manchester United and reflecting on his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson. The forward has also found time to bang in a bunch of goals while his team-mates have downed tools and scratched their backsides.
Unfortunately new demands are now being wedged upon Ronnie’s manly shoulders, with Wednesday’s front covers in the Madrid-based papers ordering yet more heroics.
“The night of Cristiano,” yells AS. “It’s your day!” bellows Marca. It seems that only the Portuguese goal machine can get Madrid though their last-16 tie against Manchester United; the papers have given up on everyone else. José Callejón must be feeling quite left out by the hullabaloo.
Madrid limber up for the clash
The fact that the big event is only the last 16 has been largely overlooked in Spain. Such is the grandeur of the opposition that the clash has almost been billed as a semi-final. Indeed, Marca’s front page is already calling it Madrid’s “first final” en route to their tenth European title.
If Madrid do eventually hit the tenth at the eleventh time of asking it will have certainly been an adventure of Hobbit proportions. José Mourinho’s side will have faced the reigning title-holders in Holland, England and Germany in the group stages before the champions elect of England in the first knockout round.
LLL has its suspicions, though. If Madrid prevail and then run into the champions elect of Spain or Germany in the quarters, it would probably produce a swift return to the drawing board and new manager to oversee the project.
Unsurprisingly for a coach who is quite the fan of himself, the Champions League for Mourinho is more critical for his own personal glory than that of the club.
“Madrid want to win the tenth and I want the third. I’m not thinking about staying with two Champions League wins,” said the Madrid manager, who was cheeky with the English media and largely bolshy with the Spanish press on Tuesday evening.
Mourinho emerges from face of a giant robot owl
One question from the local media not unreasonably concerning Madrid’s approach to the game was answered with: “Today we’ve done our tactical work and you always know what we’ve done. The sources that you have that are sometimes mineral water and sometimes spoiled. You need to ask your sources.” Nope, LLL isn't entirely sure what Mourinho means either.
The destiny of the tie itself is very difficult to call. But there seems to be a large amount of certainty over how good the English leaders are and how bad this Madrid side is, 16 points off the top and light-years from the outfit that made it to the semi-finals last season.
The future is clearer for poor Valencia though, who crashed to a 2-1 defeat against PSG after being blown away in the first half of Tuesday’s game at the Mestalla.
“It was a match for closing your eyes when the ball went into Guaita’s area,” mourned Marca’s match report. The French side take both the lead and two away goals back to Paris.
“We were not good in the first half, we played with too much risk,” admitted Valencia coach Ernesto Valverde after the game, which saw a quartet of Champions League matches featuring Spanish teams getting off to a bad start.
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