[Wed 25 Jan, 2:29pmET: Updated with a tasty Coppa Italia matchup that we didn’t realize was also today!]
A couple of Three big-name matchups in 2nd legs of domestic cup competitions coming up later today:
Coppa Italia quarterfinal – Napoli vs Inter Milan – 8:45pm CET / 2:45pmET / 7:45pm GMT (USA: ESPN3.com): Resurgent Inter take on the very fashionable Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples. Via FootballItalia: “The winners of tonight’s one-off match at the San Paolo will go on to play Siena in the semi, as the Tuscans earned a surprise 1-0 victory away to Chievo this evening.”
Carling Cup semifinal – Manchester City vs Liverpool – 8:45pm CET / 2:45pmET / 7:45pm GMT (USA TV: FSC): We didn’t see the 1st leg of this semifinal tie earlier this month, which somewhat surprisingly went 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield. But that was while Man City was in a bit of a slump, from which they’ve mostly recovered, especially with that lucky but pivotal win against Spurs on Sunday. Meanwhile, Liverpool have slid into something close to crisis–most recently, their shocking loss Saturday to Bolton. Liverpool are missing not only Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, but also Brazilian holding midfielder Lucas Leiva–apparently Bolton’s midfield overran Liverpool’s central midfield pair of Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adams. See the lengthy discussion of Liverpool’s woes on this week’s Gdn podcast.
From Edhinho: “Heart says Liverpool but on current Liverpool form, head says Man City will prevail, with or without the alleged stamper. Will be using my spare viewing time for the Copa dey Rey to see what Salieri’s going to come up with to stifle the genius.”
Salieri, of course, is Edhino’s allegory for Mourinho–who indeed seems to be edging closer to madness given events of the past week ahead of today’s match:
Copa dey Rey quarterfinal – Barcelona vs Real Madrid – 10pm CET / 4pm ET / 9pm GMT (USA TV: ESPN Deportes, GolTV, ESPN3.com): This one has become more about the internal turmoil at Madrid. It’s unfortunate in a way, since it distracts from Barcelona’s continuing brilliance–but the drama is compelling nevertheless.
We’ve been intrigued by Madrid newspaper Marca’s coverage before, and usually try to check their website before or after El Clasico matches. (For instance, their “Con 10 Se Juega Mejor” cover after one of last spring’s clashes led us off on a tangent about Helenio Herrera.) But this past Sunday’s Marca’s cover–a few days after their demoralizing defeat at home to Barcelona in the first leg, and a few hours before they were to take on Basque side Athletic Bilbao at home in the Bernabeu (managed, btw, by Guardiola mentor Marcelo Bielsa)–well, that odd cover became a major news story on its own in Madrid.
We read of it in Monday’s La Liga column by Sid Lowe: “Mourinho meltdown and hints of civil war at Real Madrid”, with the subhead summarizing what’s transpired: “The Portuguese wants to know who plunged the knife into his back after a training ground conversation was leaked to the press.”
Sid Lowe’s remarkable blow-by-blow, translating the cover:
Marca’s cover showed Mourinho and Sergio Ramos face to face. Word for word, they reproduced a conversation between the two men, and Iker Casillas, at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground on Friday morning – two days after Madrid, playing ultra-defensively, had again been beaten by Barcelona; two days after Ramos had noted: “We follow the coach’s tactics. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” According to Marca, the conversation started with Mourinho turning towards Ramos and saying: “You [plural] killed me in the mixed zone.” To which Ramos replied: “No, mister, you only read what it says in the papers not everything we said.”
Mourinho replied: “Sure, because you Spaniards have been world champions and your friends in the media protect you … and because the goalkeeper …” At that point there is a shout from Casillas, training 30 metres away: “Eh, mister, round here you say things to our faces, eh!”
Another part of the conversation starts with Mourinho saying: “Where were you on the first goal [against Barcelona], Sergio?”
“Well, you should have been marking Puyol.”
“Yes, but they were blocking us off [using basketball style screens] with Piqué and we decided to change the marking.”
“What? So now you’re playing at being coach?”
“No,” replies Ramos, “but depending on the situation in the game, sometimes you have to change the marking. Because you’ve never been a player, you don’t know that that sometimes happens.”