Valencia face a troublesome trip as Marca cause Messi confusion
ValenciaÃ¢ÂÂs journey to Lille for Wednesday's Champions League clash probably wasnÃ¢ÂÂt a fun affair for the players. La Liga Loca imagines that their monosyllabic midfielders will have had the volume on their over-sized headphones cranked up to 11, as they gazed glumly at mobile phones wondering whether or not to send that fine-tempting Tweet or hassle their agents for the fifth time that morning.
Eyes were probably searching the aisles of the plane on the look-out to see if the notoriously tardy Ever Banega actually made the flight. Players may have even been pondering who gave Sofiane Feghouli a lift to the airport, given he was recently banned from driving after being unable to produce a valid license when stopped by police. David Albelda would have been patrolling the plane looking for malcontents such as Fernando Gago, who expressed an interested in leaving Mestalla. Ã¢ÂÂIf some of my colleagues donÃ¢ÂÂt want to be here, then itÃ¢ÂÂs a good time to go,Ã¢ÂÂ warned the Valencia veteran on Monday.
One key figure who definitely isn't making the trip for the final Champions League group game is Ernesto Valverde, the coach swiftly appointed by club president Manuel Llorente in place of Mauricio Pellegrino, the coach swiftly fired by Manuel Llorente. The former Villarreal and Espanyol manager is only set to be hanging about Mestalla until the summer on a six month contract.
Ã¢ÂÂThatÃ¢ÂÂs all they offered me,Ã¢ÂÂ revealed a figure thought to be moving into San MamÃÂ©s next season. Valverde will be staying behind in Valencia removing dart boards and pool tables from the training centre after suggesting that Ã¢ÂÂthere are a lot of elements around which donÃ¢ÂÂt allow you to focus on whatÃ¢ÂÂs important, which is football and thatÃ¢ÂÂs what makes us stronger.Ã¢ÂÂ
Game for a laugh: Voro will take charge of Valencia for one match
Instead, stand-in stand-in manager Salvador Ã¢ÂÂVoroÃ¢ÂÂ GonzÃÂ¡lez will be leading the line in Lille, in a match that could see Valencia top of their Champions League group, should they get a better result than Bayern can muster against BATE.
Real Madrid will certainly be wishing their compatriots luck, but only so they donÃ¢ÂÂt run the risk of facing the Germans in the last 16, with JosÃÂ© MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs team finishing in second place behind Borussia Dortmund in their own group. A fairly strong side was fielded in the two-thirds full Santiago Bernabeu, and put Ajax to the sword 4-1.
MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs once again decided to fire pot shots at the youth team coach, Alberto Toril, by giving midfielder JosÃÂ© RodrÃÂguez 20 minutes, making the him the youngest player to feature for Madrid in the Champions League at 17 years and 354 days, beating RaÃÂºlÃ¢ÂÂs record of 18 years and 78 days. Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs another kid that I really like. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a shame that heÃ¢ÂÂs not starting for Castilla. But we like him anyway.Ã¢ÂÂ
MÃÂ¡lagaÃ¢ÂÂs home clash with Anderlecht was also a dead rubber, with prize money the only thing at stake. But MÃÂ¡laga couldn't pocket it all, losing half a million by conceding an equaliser in the final seconds. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt care who we play in the next round,Ã¢ÂÂ said Manuel Pellegrini after the clash, Ã¢ÂÂthe most important thing is that we go into it in good form.Ã¢ÂÂ
Barcelona are the last of the final four to play in matches that have significance elsewhere, but not in Spain. In this particular case, itÃ¢ÂÂs in Scotland where the Wee Hoopie Ones of Glasgow will be hoping the Catalan club beat Benfica in the Camp Nou, which would mean a point in their own fixture, at home to Spartak, would see the progress.
The BarÃÂ§a side should be reasonably strong, but certainly not full in 100% va-va-voom mode. Leo Messi is set to start, just one goal away from equalling Gerd MullerÃ¢ÂÂs 85 in a calendar year (see FourFourTwo's snazzy infographic here), even if Marca are trying to muddy the water by saying Messi is in fact two goals short, refusing to give his Ã¢ÂÂfirstÃ¢ÂÂ against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, instead awarding it as an own goal to Fernando Amorebieta.
Thursday morningÃ¢ÂÂs headlines may proclaim a record-breaking night for Leo Messi, depending on how the forward does against Benfica. But in some areas, the big news announcement will have to wait. Spain really is different.