Mixed midweek emotions in la Liga

‘Visionary’, ‘stunning’, ‘breathtaking’ - just three of the adjectives that swept around an enraptured Camp Nou on Wednesday night. But sadly for 90-odd thousand Catalan crazies gathered in their sweaty stadium for the annual Gamper trophy encounter, the words were not being used to describe the performance of their pimpled players in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Instead, they were a homage to Pep Guardiola’s outfit for the evening. The natty Barça boss had elected to give the watching world a true treat by sporting a thermal vest - what with it being oh-so chilly in the Catalan capital - paired with two shirts worn over each other, one blue, one pink.

It was a spectacular ensemble that was a thrilling throwback to Pep’s much-missed Marks and Sparks cardigan phase from the start of the last campaign. The league champions were in action on a Wednesday evening that saw Spain’s big three (two-and-a-half?) take to the football field, but Barcelona’s clash was perhaps the least important of the trio. The friendly run-out against City was another chance for Pep to peruse his cantera players to see which have bigger cojones than 800m runner Caster Semenya, and could be handy in the campaign to come. And that’s why Barcelona started the night with such household names as Montoya and Fontás, before bringing on Gai, Thiago, Batra and Jonathan.

Heck, even Gudjohnsen got a game. In fact, Guardiola used 22 players on the night. One of those was a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a curious spell on the pitch seeing crosses from Dani Alves go flying over his head, which was quite an achievement considering the size of the Swedish striker. Like the rest of his team-mates, the new recruit was unable to find the back of the net despite Barça’s 23 efforts compared to City’s three.

However a perky Pep seemed to have enjoyed himself and was happy to see his expensive signing get some minutes under his belt. “Ibrahimovic has come for five years, not one day,” pointed out the Barcelona boss on what really would have been an expensive signing. Sport described the night as “a fiesta, but without a goal.”

AS were a little less charitable by grumbling in Thursday’s editorial that the youthful line-up was “a lack of respect to those who turned up,” opining that the strongest XI possible should have started the encounter. The second least important game of the night was Real Madrid’s penultimate friendly of the summer - an away tie celebrating Borussia Dortmund’s 100th birthday. After a truly dreadful display against Real Sociedad last weekend, which the Madridista press seemed to think was inspirational, a decent showing against their German opponents was required.

And that’s exactly what happened with a 5-0 bullying over their Bundesliga buddies. However it was not all sweet smelling roses in Madrid’s garden with a beardy-weirdy, Iker Casillas looking very much out of sorts, the defence struggling at set pieces and Cristiano Ronaldo still very pants indeed. “It would be bad if I was playing really well already,” explained the Portuguese underperformer. AS see the result as proof that Madrid have already written their name on this season’s Champions League trophy.

“I can smell The Tenth,” pants Tomás Roncero who describes the match as “a bullfighting warning to the whole of Europe. Madrid are here.”Over in Marca-land, their match report likens Pellegrini’s Real Madrid to Mike Tyson - an interesting road to take thinks the blog.

“They are not as easy-on-the-eye as Barça, nor as technical as Arsenal, nor as fast as Manchester United, but when they hit you, you’ll be sleeping on the canvas.”The only proper ‘partido’ of the evening was Atlético Madrid’s Champions League first leg qualifier against Panathinaikos in Greece. And the rojiblancos pulled a belter out of the bag with a 3-2 win. But just as important as the result was the fact that their two sassy strikers who both scored on the night, Kun Agüero and Diego Forlán, are now cup-tied which should be enough to ward off the big boys from the British Isles who may have designs on them. Nevertheless, Abel Resino is not quite ready to count his Champions League cookies just yet, knowing that his rojiblanco side are famous for cocking things up royally anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

“It’s a good result, but its dangerous,” mused the Atleti manager. Wednesday saw three different games, three different results but three reasons to be cheerful for the Spanish sides involved.


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