Higuain to miss tonight’s clash
It appears that (and genuinely- not Mourinho subterfuge) that Gonzalo Higuaín is injured, and will miss tonight’s game. The general consensus in all this morning’s papers was that he and Ozil would both start. The obvious question now is whether Mourinho will go for the previously mooted three midfield, drafting in Lassana Diarra for the Argentine, or persist with the same formation with the ever-improving Karim Benzema. Of course the possibility remains that this is just more Mournho gamemanship, but by all accounts the injury appears to be a genuine one. Stay tuned to Back Page Football for all the latest news on El Clásico.
Also, we saw several interesting matches and some stunning results throughout the weekend; this ensures that there will be more talking points than just tonight’s big one in this week’s round-up.
Update: 18:11 CET– All the indications in the press point towards Karim Benzema being handed a starting role tonight
And some highlights from this morning’s papers:
From the Catalan sports daily Sport, we have Puyol saying “This is not a game against Mourinho”. The same paper quotes Cristiano Ronaldo as saying “anyone who doesn’t like my game had better not watch”. Ooof! The same paper, not at all José Mourinho obsessed, went so far as to publish a total foul count for all Mourinho’s games at Chelsea and Inter v Barcelona. “156 for Barcelona, 210 for Mourinho. This was topped off with a rather bizarre cartoon featuring tonight’s técnicos, Pep Guardiola as Buddha with Mou alongside him in some sort of kung-fu pose. Right….
Meanwhile, over at Madrid cheerleading AS, the front-page read ‘CLASICAZO’. I mentioned earlier in the preview that superclásico has long been used for the Boca v River derby, but this is a monicker to trump even that. Huge classic, or even the biggest classic would be fair translations. Juanma Truera headlined his piece with ‘Barcelona v Madrid – even more stars than the sky!’, and further in we had Alfredo Relaño with ‘The greatest game imaginable in world football’, and Manu Sainz’s “We have to give the world the spectacle it’s waiting for!’
The same paper also noted Mourinho’s overall record against Madrid; 3 wins, 3 draws, 4 defeats, but -aha!- 13 goals each. We also heard that 2000 Real supporters greeted their heroes at Barcelona’s El Prat airport, and that later on some 50 Boixos Nois (Barcelona’s Ultras) attacked the team bus, smashing a window in the process. No injuries, fortunately. Further in, John Carlin ratcheted the hype further still with the headline ‘The match of the year (And this time it’s the truth!’)’. Another piece reminded us of the overall standings in head to head encounters between these two giants: 41% of those saw Real emerge victorious, to Barça’s 39%. Helpfully, it told the reader that the remaining 20% ended in draws. No flies on the author, Señor de la Rosa then! Finally, an article told us “Casillas always grows in his visits to the Camp Nou; he is the only keeper to have left twice unbeaten”. I’m not sure I understand the sense of ‘unbeaten’ here. Undefeated in two games, or two clean sheets. Possibly it could mean penalty saves, But let’s move on.
La Vanguardia, Catalonia’s premier broadsheet sought to the further rubbish last seasons Villarroto farce (the ridiculous conspiracy theory which originated at AS, and was taken up by Marca, that referees in Spain were systematically aiding Barcelona, in particular regarding the awarding of penalty kicks). 5 penalties from 5 for Madrid this season, 1 from 2 for Barça. Villarroto? What a load of cobblers. In a piece comparing Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the summary read “Different paths, but one objective.”
A rather anodyne piece culled from Real Madrid’s website:
Prior to sitting down for their pre-match luncheon, Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez and his Barcelona counterpart, Sandro Rosell held a joint press conference to discuss their thoughts on the Clasico.
“It is a pleasure to have Real Madrid here and I hope they feel right at home. I hope that tonight we see a great show and a great match in which fair play prevails.”
“I hope our fans come out to support our club. I hope we see a great show and a great match. This is an important match, but it is not decisive. Independent of who wins tonight, the league champion will still not be decided. That said, we must win. One doesn’t detract from the other. Real Madrid are a very important rival.”
“It is always a pleasure to visit Barcelona, but even more so when it is for a great universal match. And I have the fortune of standing by the side of my friend, Sandro. The pleasure is all mine.”
“Today is a day of celebration. A celebration of football that sees two of the best teams in the world play each other and that draws the attention of fans around the world. I am sure we will not only play up to par in terms of fair play, but in pretty football as well.”
“It seems like the world is coming to an end, but everything will return to normal tomorrow. It is wonderful that in one country there are two very important teams. This match transcends borders, which we must continue to promote with fair play and pretty football.”
“Barcelona are a great team and for Real Madrid it is a pleasure to play against such a good squad. We always come with the desire to win.”
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Villa, Pedro.
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Khedira, Alonso; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema.
All running news before today’s game will appear here.