Messi’s Milan malaise, Mourinho’s laughing fit & Atlético’s man-hunt

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

Admiration for a defensive job well done, sulking about an attack that failed to break through and a touch of referee-moaning thrown into the mix. That was the Barcelona press reaction to Wednesday night's goalless draw in Milan, which leaves next week’s second leg curiously poised, like David Silva standing on one leg in Trafalgar Square dressed as Hilda Ogden.  

"Ooh Stan…"

Mundo Deportivo's Santi Nolla grumbled that it was “objective unfulfilled, everything open but a good chance for Barça to go through to the semis – although Milan did give enough evidence to make his players aware it won’t be easy.”

Sport set aside a bit of space for an unnecessary and mean-spirited dig at Swedish referee, Jonas Eriksson, for failing to give a penalty for Christian Abbiati’s challenge on Alexis, noting rather unfairly that the man in the middle happened to be a compatriot of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, say no more, nothing to see here.

It was a moment that La Liga Loca enjoyed watching on Telemadrid – the somewhat partisan channel broadcasting Wednesday's match to viewers in the capital – whose commentators and pundits were forced to instantly come up with numerous reasons why it was a brilliant decision from Eriksson, a posture that would have been completely reversed had Cristiano Ronaldo been involved instead.

Clean as a freshly-valeted whistle

Rather remarkably considering the forward’s form of late, Ronaldo failed to score for Real Madrid against APOEL on Tuesday night in a 3-0 scoreline that may look like a goalfest to those lucky enough to have missed it, but was an awful drudge of a game between one team that parked every bus in Cyprus in front of their goal and another that was doing the equivalent of a yawn and belly scratch for much of the encounter before Marcelo and Kaká livened things up with half-an-hour to go.

A fine result that leaves Madrid with both feet in the semi-finals was greeted with some cheer in the Capital City media – but for some reason it got Barcelona-based Sport writer Joan Batlle very hot under the collar indeed, calling the Madrid team vulgar during the match.

“The 0-3 barely puts make-up over the reality of the current Madrid," burbled Batlle. "Mou is laughing at Madridistas.” LLL suspects that the supporters are joining in the chuckling, considering the team are top of the Spanish league table with a six-point lead and almost certainly in the Champions League semi-finals for the second successive year.

"Yeah, it's rubbish, this. Mourinho out!"

The European fun isn’t over in Spain, with three teams having a big night out in Thursday's Europa League action. Atlético Madrid are taking on Hannover 96 at the Vicente Calderón, another chance for Diego Simeone to summon the spirit of Ernest Hemingway and do the managerial equivalent of stripping off his shirt to thump his chest. “It’s the best time to find out who the men are,” roared the Atlético coach, leaping up onto his desk, “and the players have to turn up in times like this.”

No such fist-pumping rhetoric from Valencia's Unai Emery, who is in Holland to take on AZ Alkmaar and has probably given up trying to get any kind of reaction from his players. A tired and exhausted Athletic Bilbao have made a tiring and exhausting trip to Germany to play Raúl’s Schalke in what will no doubt be a tiring and exhausting match. Good job the Basque team's next game is only on Saturday night at Barcelona, eh?