Mixed moods over odds of an all-Spanish final

Ha! La Liga Loca knew it! José Mourinho will be moving back to the Premier League over the summer, after all. That’s the only reason the blog can think of to explain why the Madrid manager didn’t follow his standard operating procedure after footballing setbacks: either publicly blasting the referee for being a UEFA-conspiracy stooge or privately waiting for him by his car to rant about ruining his life. 

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The referee for the Bayern Munich match on Tuesday night happened to be Howard Webb, an Englishman, and therefore a useful ally to have next season. True, Mourinho noted after the game on a couple of occasions that he felt that he first goal for Bayern was offside due to Luiz Gustavo standing in front of Iker Casillas, but the message from Mourinho was that refs have a tough job and do the best they can. “It should have been ruled out, but I don’t have a bad feeling.”

Mourinho was perhaps balancing that decision with the later one that saw Marcelo only receiving a yellow for giving Thomas Müller an almighty boot. “It still hurts,” complained the Munich man. “The doctors are going to examine me but I can walk,” he continued, presumably waving away a proffered piggy-back.

"Comme ci, comme ça. No, hang on…"

A suspension for Marcelo would have had meant a very uncomfortable week for his replacement Fabio Coentrao, who has received the bulk of the blame for the defeat for his failure to stop the runs of Arjen Robben and Philippe Lahm. The full-back and a certain German midfielder received the full scorn of Tomás Roncero in Wednesday’s AS. “Coentrao and Khedira are not starters in a great Real Madrid, like we all dream of. An imperial Madrid, that dominates games and silences the Allianz Arena with a match of 'I’m in charge here, little Germans.'”

AS editor Alfredo Relaño was unimpressed with both teams in what LLL thought was a very entertaining, open clash for an encounter of such significance. “Neither of the two teams were of the height of a European semi-final nor at their club level,” said the head of a paper whose front cover warns that “the Bernabeu will decide.”

This may be an issue for Mourinho: although Madrid have the away goal, Fortress Bernabeu is a bit of an open house this season with Getafe, Rayo, Betis, Osasuna, Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Athletic Bilbao, Zaragoza, Levante, Málaga, Real Sociedad, Sporting, Pontferradina, Dinamo Zagreb, CSKA Moscow and APOEL all scoring in Madrid’s home.

Marca would disagree, their front cover claiming that Mesut Özil’s close-range effort is a “golden goal”. However, like AS, Marca were not overly impressed with the performance of the visiting side – apart from their French striker. “A bad night for Ronaldo and di María... but a good one for Karim Benzema,” said the paper’s match report.

The result has put the all-Spain Champions League final in some jeopardy, with LLL putting the first tie at 50/50. Barcelona are generally expected to have an easier time of it in Stamford Bridge, the scene of a crime that José Mourinho still rants about: Barcelona’s controversial win over Chelsea in 2009. “What’s lost is lost,” mused Pep Guardiola, who said that he’s not expecting a revenge mission from Wednesday’s opponents.

Sport appear to be so confident of victory that the paper's front cover leads with Real Madrid’s defeat to Bayern. It does find room inside for a truly enormous amount of smuggery from Josep María Casanovas, who gasps about the welcome Barça received in London.

“The Barcelona of Messi has turned into a paradigm of football, the mirror into which everyone looks, the team which is building up merit to pass into history as the best in the world. It’s not an exaggeration but a marvellous reality. Never has Barça been so admired and respected.”

The over-stimulated Sport columnist continues in this manner for quite some time – as does his colleague Lluís Mascaró, who is in very confident mood indeed ahead of the game and is slobbering over the thought of more glorious nights for the Catalan Crusaders. “The first step should be taken tonight in London. Barça are superior to Chelsea – very superior according to experts in English football.”

And this sums up the mood in Spain ahead of the second semi-final. Any English rival is always going to be respected, but the problems suffered by Chelsea this season and the team’s wobbling form have been closely followed due to the presence at the club of Juan Mata and poor Fernando Torres.

One half of the Real Madrid and Barcelona divide are now less than confident of being in Munich in May after Tuesday night’s game. The other think they’ll be there even before Wednesday’s has been played.

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