Barça Back Out of Iberian Battle

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With Frank Rijkaard having waved a big white flag of surrender on the title race with his rather defeatist, "it seems that no-one can beat Real Madrid," comment, it's time for everyone to work out how they are going to pass the next four months or so, with only the plight of Valencia for entertainment.

'La Liga Loca' has got hold of Heroes at last, is a bit behind on the ongoing adventures of Jack Bauer and has never seen Prison Break so it is all sorted until summer.

Sport has taken to printing emails from irate readers - those who can send emails in between the powercuts attacking the city - across its opening pages to send a powerful message to those running the Kingdom of Catalunya.

"There is a complete lack of application from some players," grumbles Oscar Senén. "The team needs solutions and Rijkaard has none," declares Mercedes Gallego, "a fan and a member," who will probably find out she isn't one, once Joan Laporta tracks her down on his presidential database.

A bit further along inside the paper, Joan Batile declares in an editorial that, "last year, the bosses watched the side on teletext and never watched them in person as they could see that Barcelona were on top." Not anymore, he reports, guessing that they are still tuning into "Look Who's Dancing!" on match nights.

El Mundo Deportivo are continuing to show an admirable faith in Ronaldinho's abilities by trumpeting the Brazilian's 50th return to training, this season.

"He's smiling!" they declare on the front page, hoping his big happy grin will be enough to shut out Villarreal, on Thursday.

Carles Puyol, for one, is delighted to see his team-mate back having grown tired of Citizen Oleguer's ongoing ruminations on whether the French rogue trader is a hero of the people or capitalism's pig dog. "He can bring back the joy we are missing," pontificated the permed one.

Marca were feeling very pleased with themselves indeed on Wednesday, having secured an interview with Zizou. Despite offering the fantastic Frenchman their cheap and tatty award, Zidane still gave them an interview. Once he had wiped away his tears, or course.

"This means a lot to me," claimed the thunderous thug. "Then there was a silence and you could see Zidane was very emotional," claimed Marca.

The paper splashed the headline, "I see Madrid as European Champions!" as Zizou's big prediction. "I don't just see Madrid as European Champions. There are other teams, too... like Manchester United," was what the geriatric genius actually said.

Those non-Roberto Gómez fans may skip this section, but today's ranting ruminations from the paper's chief jester concern Real Madrid's lack of attendance at a local trade fair - a trade fair where he suggests Iker Casillas should be standing next to a model of the Bernabeu. Instead of lying on a bed with Eva González counting his money.

"When Jesus Gil was president of Atlético Madrid and mayor of Marbella, the whole squad went," boasted Gómez neatly side-stepping the fact that Gil stole tax payer's money from the people of Marbella to fund his pet club and would have gone to prison for it, had he not keeled over with a heart attack just before.

Losing two matches in a row constitutes a crisis here in Spain, so Atlético Madrid's three defeats on the trot signifies a full on CRISIS! in the papers. There are no words in Spanish to describe Valencia's slump.

The two sides face eachother in the Vicente Calderón, on Wednesday night, in the second leg of their Copa del Rey quarter final clash. And 'La Liga Loca' will be there to watch the footballing equivalent of Ivan de la Peña and Pedro Munitis fighting over a comb.

Valencia have a 1-0 advantage and despite the absence of Vicente - who would probably have played in goal - and Silva, central defence - Ronald Koeman is in chipper mood. "We are two victories away from being able to win a title!" announced the doomed Dutchman.

Getafe travel to Mallorca with a 1-0 advantage with housewife's favourite, Michael Laudrup reckoning that, "one goal would be enough." Sounds like a fun night in store at the Ono Estadi.