More referee rants and Zaragoza’s trashed tactics

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First things first, it’s time to get the grown-up football talk out of the way, so bear with us for a moment. In the home leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final against Valencia, Real Madrid's entertaining 2-0 win made them strong favourites to go through to a semi-final meeting against either Málaga or (heaven forbid) Barcelona. Karim Benzema and an own goal from Andrés Guardado did the job for Madrid, although Jonas was a bit of a dozy doozy throughout the game and should have notched an away goal for his side.

Boom! Benzema bags at the Bernabeu

This being Spain though, the real chat after the match was whether the anti-anti-anti-Villarato [CIA-backed pro-Barça refereeing conspiracy] was in effect, and the moaning from Angel di María the previous day and the Madrid papers about offside decisions not going Madrid’s way had had an impact in the match.

Valencia certainly seem to think so, with a few close calls going against the visitors. Roberto Soldado was on the wrong end of a chunk of those and was not best pleased after the match.

“Madrid have been putting a lot of pressure on the referee all week,” moaned the striker, who is still smarting over having a goal ruled out at the Bernabeu in the league clash earlier this season. “There are games when referees work in your favour and others when everything is against you, but in this case it was incredible,” said Soldado, probably earning himself a hefty fine.

Barcelona would never be a bunch of moaning Minnies – aside from bleating endlessly about not getting enough penalties last season – so it was with a straight face that Tito Vilanova spoke about Angel di María’s claims of refereeing bias ahead of Barça’s cup clash with Málaga on Wednesday.

“I saw the images of what di María said; I don’t think he was being serious. He was almost smiling,” chuckled the Barça boss, who appeared to be in mischievous mood, especially with the zinger over what the Catalan coach felt about the 18-point lead over Real Madrid: “If the question was about the reverse situation then I wouldn’t be here now answering it.”

Titter ye lot: Tito brings the LOLs

There's so little to say about the cup double-header against Málaga, whom Barça beat 3-1 at la Rosaleda on Saturday, that Wednesday’s Mundo Deportivo front cover has Leo Messi posing with his awards while a story concerning Víctor Valdés dominates Sport.

There’s more fun to be had though with the quarter-final kicking off before the Camp Nou clash: Unai Emery’s first match in charge of Sevilla, at Zaragoza. The arm-flapping blog favourite promises that his Sevilla are going to be “an aggressive team with and without the ball.” That’s pretty much what his counterpart on the Zaragoza bench, Manolo Jiménez, is all about too so there should be fisticuffs aplenty.

Jiménez – who was himself Sevilla boss, five managers ago – isn't that happy over the Andalusians' firing of Míchel NoLongerTheManager, complaining that “I’ve had to ditch all my plans. I know Sevilla and their players very well, but I’ve no idea what Unai is going to do.”

Although the tie is the least glamorous of the four matches taking place this week, with Atlético Madrid hosting Betis on Thursday at the ludicrous time of 10pm, Unai Emery’s return to la Liga could be the most intriguing.

COPA DEL REY Tue 15 Jan Real Madrid 2-0 Valencia Wed 16 Jan Real Zaragoza v Sevilla, Barcelona v Málaga Thu 17 Jan Atlético Madrid v Real Betis