Clásico referee criticised before game has even begun
A sympathetic La Liga Loca can only imagine that Undiano Mallenco must have received the news that he was set to be in charge of TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Copa del Rey ClÃÂ¡sico second leg with the weariest of sighs, knowing full well the borderline slanderous accusations that would soon be heading in the refereeÃ¢ÂÂs direction.
And so it came to pass on Monday with Jordi Roura Ã¢ÂÂ half football coach, half Easter Island statue Ã¢ÂÂ and an accusation of refereeing pre-crime, that beloved Spanish hobby of stomping all over decisions made during the match before the game has taken place. Ã¢ÂÂThe referee is who he is and we donÃ¢ÂÂt talk about the referees,Ã¢ÂÂ said the stand-in BarÃÂ§a boss, talking about the referees. Ã¢ÂÂBut there is evidence that our results with this referee are worse than others Ã¢ÂÂ and we remember that he let a lot go in the  Copa del Rey final.Ã¢ÂÂ
Completely coincidentally, Real Madrid won that final Ã¢ÂÂ a match at the Mestalla, clinched in injury time, that Mundo Deportivo recalls being Ã¢ÂÂa thriller of fouls and violence.Ã¢ÂÂ WhatÃ¢ÂÂs more, Mallenco is so mean and pro-Madrid/anti-BarÃÂ§a that the Catalan club have come out on top in three of the previous six ClÃÂ¡sicos the referee has been in charge of, with one draw.
This pre-crime complaint was too good for JosÃÂ© Mourinho to pass up. The Madrid manager was due to be continuing his vow of silence on Monday, with Xabi Alonso scheduled to talk to the press. The midfielder was given the swift elbow, though, with a typically terse, grumpy-head Mourinho delighting in a bout of sarcasm with his own response when questioned on the referee for the night.
Ã¢ÂÂI prefer to keep the lessons we have learned in the past from Barcelona. Lessons in sporting behaviour, how football should be. Not talking about referees, not surrounding them, not looking for cards for rivals. Not hiding things, and of course, lessons in how to play football, that they do very well. You need to try to stay humble in following this line.Ã¢ÂÂ
Probably feeling a lot better having let all this out, Mourinho drifted into the background to decide whether any of his players would fancy giving Cristiano Ronaldo a hand during the clash, perhaps at the same time as Tito Vilanova was musing in New York whether to try the patience of the culÃÂ© collective Ã¢ÂÂ and David Villa Ã¢ÂÂ by starting with Alexis SÃÂ¡nchez.
This kind of verbal jousting has been absent between the two teams in the previous three ClÃÂ¡sicos this season, perhaps because Mourinho is a little bit scared of Tito Vilanova one day getting his revenge for the eye-poke (LLL feels ludicrous even writing that).
However, RouraÃ¢ÂÂs comments have spiced things up nicely and some areas of the press in Barcelona are standing behind their guy. Ã¢ÂÂRoura didnÃ¢ÂÂt say anything we donÃ¢ÂÂt already know,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed Sport director Joan Vehils. "There was nothing disrespectful or ironic, simply an explanation of what happens every time that this referee is charge of BarÃÂ§a games."
This all leaves LLL is two minds about the match, which has a wholly unpredictable outcome with the scores at 1-1. The previous 24 ClÃÂ¡sicos played over the past 18 months have been tremendous affairs without much of the card-waving, Busquets-tumbling, Pepe-rampaging nonsense. However, it might be fun to have a bit of a reboot niggle, even to make SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs wholly irrelevant ClÃÂ¡sico at the BernabÃÂ©u in la Liga a little bit easier to bear.