FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard on the four La Liga clubs' Champions League exploits - and a wedge of bad luck for Real Madrid's former No.1...
It isn’t big, hulking centre-forwards that Iker Casillas needs to be on the look out for, but his own defenders.
Back in January the club captain was booted in the hand by Alvaro Arbeloa in a cup game against Valencia. Casillas was sidelined and subsequently replaced by Diego López - on a near-permanent basis, it would appear.
Nearly a year later, the former Madrid No.1 was back in goal - apparently in an act of charity by Carlo Ancelotti - but took an elbow to the ribs from Sergio Ramos, which lead to Casillas' substitution after just 15 minutes. “He had some bad luck,” noted boss Ancelotti after the astonishing 6-1 against Galatasaray in Turkey, which featured a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Having five more years of the best player on earth is incalculable,” gushed Tomás Roncero in AS, after the debate in Spain over exactly how much the Portuguese poacher is earning after his contract extension.
Ronaldo also explained his thumb-suck goal celebration, to avoid a mass tabloid explosion of excitement in Spain. “It’s my brother who has had a baby. It’s not mine!” he confirmed.
The victory, which saw Galatasaray’s defence run ragged, is Madrid’s biggest away from home in the Champions League and sets the group up very nicely after Juventus drew at Copenhagen.
Unfortunately the news was not so good for Real Sociedad as they lost 2-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. “It was a tough blow and totally undeserved,” was the complaint from La Real boss Jagoba Arrasate. As well as the bad result, the Basque side also had to deal with the news that Esteban Granero might be lost until the end of the season with a cruciate ligament injury picked up during the match.
The mighty Atlético Madrid return to the Champions League on Wednesday night after four years away, and visiting Zenit St Petersburg are in for a rough ride from the Rojiblancos. “We have a passion for defending this shirt,” exclaimed manager Diego Simeone, who is turning up his brooding intensity dial up to nine for the special event.
Barcelona are in action in the Nou Camp against Ajax, although there has been yet more tragic news for the club, who have had an awful lot to deal with of late. Tata Martino’s father, who had been sick for some time, passed away on Tuesday, meaning the Barça boss will be heading back to his homeland of Argentina straight after the game.
Meanwhile, Gerard Pique was force to do a little back-pedalling having commented last week that Barça were “slaves” to tiki-taka. “What I wanted to say was that we have undeniably become predictable in our style of play,” explained the defender.