Real Madrid begin hunt for La Décima. Again.

The Champions League only really starts for LLL when the blog reads the annual “Real Madrid are going for La Décima!” headlines in the local papers.

It’s a call to arms for Madrid’s 10th European Cup crown which has been running since 2002 and has become a fun September tradition alongside the advertisements encouraging newly-enthused Spaniards returning from their holidays to learn a new language, take up embroidery or collect ghastly figurines so beloved by the nation’s evil grannies.

To be fair, most of these new hobbies last about as long as Real Madrid’s standard Champions League campaigns. But all that changed last season when the mighty side from Mordor made it through to the semi-finals, so perhaps there was extra gusto in Tuesday’s edition of Marca when it screamed “The Dream of La Décima!” from its front cover.

AS picked up this beacon of hope on Wednesday, sticking a photo of Pepe and Carvalho arriving in Zagreb sporting big smiles. “Happy faces about La Décima!” beamed the paper - tiny face in Pepe’s case - although LLL suspects the centre-back had just heard the news that his Portuguese colleague was suspended from playing for his country for a year. “Sweeeeeeet,” was the thought LLL suspects was going through Pepe’s mind to the tune of the Magic Roundabout.

That's right Cristiano - Madrid are looking for a TENTH European crown

The paper reports that since José Mourinho no longer wants the press flying with the team on trips, 18 supporters were on Madrid’s stealth jet to Croatia on Tuesday. However, AS assures readers that “security made sure no-one from outside the team went up front to ask the players for photos or autographs.” LLL shudders to think of the consequences of that.

Antonio Romero, writing in Wednesday’s edition, has a good feeling about this year and reveals that “Cristiano smells La Décima.” LLL suspects that the forward smells Karim Benzema, who is sweating for the first time in his football life, but the blog is not going to poop Antonio’s party. “He knows Madrid signed him to be decisive in the big Champions League games and at the moment he has a debt. Today the path begins for the new Cristiano to cancel the debt.”

That path begins without José Mourinho, who is continuing to serve a UEFA touchline ban. The Madrid manager is expected to stay behind at the team hotel but his number two, Aitor Karanka, revealed that no decision had be made as to Mourinho’s location for the game. LLL suspects he’ll either be sipping brandy, sprawled in a giant leather swivel chair in an airship hovering menacingly over the ground, or lying by the side of the pitch having painted himself green.

It probably won’t have escaped everyone’s attention that Barça blew it big style against AC Milan in the Camp Nou on Tuesday, conceding an equaliser in the final seconds of their clash with the Serie A side. However, the Thiago Silva header at least had a pleasing symmetrical feel to it, with Barça conceding in the opening seconds of their game too.

While AS claim that “Barça have a problem, a serious problem,” and Marca scoff that Pep’s Dream Boys “can’t do it with a dinosaur” - a problem that the soon-to-be-husband of the ancient Duquesa de Alba is about to experience - Pep Guardiola is less concerned. “I’m not worried,” soothed the Barça boss. “If people are, we’ll try to make them less worried. I have no doubts.”

Pep looking not at all concerned or worried during last night's draw...

There is certainly an air of concern in the Catalan press on Wednesday morning, with Sport’s Josep María Casanovas - the same writer who claimed AC Milan would pay big time on Tuesday night - moaning that “Barcelona had a sensational August” but have become a team that have “tripped on the same stone twice in September.”

His chest-thumping colleague, Lluís Mascaró, has come out swinging and writes that “Barcelona have nothing to prove. Over the past three years they have earned infinite credit” - not unlike Real Madrid’s relationship with banks, LLL notes.

Mundo Deportivo’s headline is “Tuesday 13th” with the traditionally bad day being a little different in Spain. The paper’s approach is a little more doomy and gloomy with Santi Nolla writing that Barça have “lost motivation and humility. Little has been learned from the 2-2 in Anoeta.”

It was also not a particularly good night for Valencia, who endured a goalless draw with Genk after Spain’s very own tinker man, Unai Emery, once again messed with the Mestalla men’s system.

Valencia’s neighbours Villarreal will be kicking off their Champions League campaign on Wednesday with an intriguing home clash against Bayern Munich. However, Juan Garrido’s men will be struggling for space in Thursday’s papers with Madrid having begun their hunt for la Décima. Again.