Tuesday was another happy day in MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs extreme graphics department. In previous weeks the Photoshop-wielding group had been called upon to put together an incredibly disturbing photograph that morphed together the faces of Gonzalo HiguaÃÂn and Karim Benzema to make the perfect striker. That call of duty was followed by a splendid mock-up of the French striker as Puss in Boots, complete with a catÃ¢ÂÂs face and whiskers.
Wednesday edition of the paper sees a front cover with a shot of the lower halves of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with their arms handcuffed together. Ã¢ÂÂCondemned to WinÃ¢ÂÂ booms MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs front cover ahead of Wednesday nightÃ¢ÂÂs Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The paper is half right, in the sense that Real Madrid are under strict orders from the fans to beat Barcelona in the Bernabeu for the first time during Pep GuardiolaÃ¢ÂÂs tenure at the Catalan club. But itÃ¢ÂÂs fair to say BarÃÂ§a have more than proved themselves against Real Madrid, having only been defeated in one of the eight previous ClÃÂ¡sicos between the BarÃÂ§a boss and JosÃÂ© Mourinho.
This desire for Madrid to finally deliver at home may explain JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs incredibly tense, bolshy mood at the pre-match press conference. Or perhaps, JosÃÂ© Mourinho generally just being incredibly tense and bolshy is a more valid reason. When asked about the tactics for the match, the Portuguese hurled toys far and wide from his Special Pram.
Ã¢ÂÂIf Ramos plays at full-back, they are going to criticise me, as heÃ¢ÂÂs better as a centre-back. If I play Fabio at right-back they will criticise me as heÃ¢ÂÂs left-footed.Ã¢ÂÂ This rant against the press went on for some time, covering Sami Khedira and Pepe, among others.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs better that we all go to the cinema and after letÃ¢ÂÂs see the result and give our opinions.Ã¢ÂÂ ThatÃ¢ÂÂs certainly what LLL would like to do.
MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs prickliest moment came when asked about Cristiano Ronaldo, who is very much the centre of attention ahead of the ClÃÂ¡sico, precisely because the forward is hardly ever the focal point of attention during the ClÃÂ¡sico.
Ã¢ÂÂCristiano has the final word,Ã¢ÂÂ yells the front cover of AS, with editor Alfredo RelaÃÂ±o noting that Ã¢ÂÂCristiano against his ghosts, this will be a game.Ã¢ÂÂ Mourinho was dutifully protective of his player warning the assembled journalists that Ã¢ÂÂif any of you have a go at him weÃ¢ÂÂre going to have a problem. I wonÃ¢ÂÂt let you.Ã¢ÂÂ
The performance of Ronaldo is one of the tactical topics that will be on MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs mind ahead of the game. Who to play at right-back in the absence of the suspended Alvaro Arbeloa and whether to use Angel di MarÃÂa for part of the game, despite not being fully recovered from injury are amongst others. At time of writing, itÃ¢ÂÂs not clear if the Argentinean will even be in the squad with Real Madrid not releasing any names to the media and fans until an hour before the clash.
In comparison with the tense terseness of the Spanish capital, the Camp Nou bat-cave was a far more jolly place, with Pep Guardiola in a fairly relaxed mood, as should be expected of a manager with nothing to prove in this particular, oft-repeated tie. Though the BarÃÂ§a boss claimed that Ã¢ÂÂI have a lot to lose, credit doesnÃ¢ÂÂt exist in this sport.Ã¢ÂÂ
Mundo Deportivo have gone for a new angle on the match, publishing a photo of the Copa del Rey trophy itself on WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs front cover - the mangled version dropped by Sergio Ramos in front of a bus last year. Ã¢ÂÂBarÃÂ§a, fix it!Ã¢ÂÂ demands the headline.
This is just one of a number of motivations the Barcelona players have to grab at least a draw in the Santiago Bernabeu before next WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs second leg clash. The others include annoying the heck of Mourinho and Madrid by frustrating them again, and perhaps equalling the number of wins in el ClÃÂ¡sico between the two teams in the 216 matches played so far.
Madrid currently have 86, with BarÃÂ§a one behind. Two goals will also see Leo Messi become the striker with the most number of goals against Madrid in BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs history. All in all, thereÃ¢ÂÂs more than enough amuse-bouches to get the juices flowing even if the main meal hasnÃ¢ÂÂt got the taste buds tingling of everyone in Spain.