Zlatan’s grudge match and Villarreal’s booby prize

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In the same way that English hacks got their panties in the biggest of bunches over whether John Terry and Wayne Bridge would shake hands after their tabloid love tales were published 18 months back, Catalan media sorts are getting all excited over how Pep Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will great each other in San Siro during Barcelona’s clash at AC Milan.

The Swedish striker already had a bit of a 'hate thang' going on with Pep Guardiola after a less than successful spell at the Camp Nou, but this was ramped up with righteous fury with the publication of Zlatan’s book, You’re Wrong and, Oh, You’re an A-Hole, Too, in which the Milan forward launches attacks on a variety of targets that have wronged him in some way or other over his football career.

Number one in that hit-list was Pep Guardiola, ostensibly for not making Zlatan the centre of attention and focal point of the whole team at the Camp Nou. Along with making narky comments in the direction of the Barça coach about him being scared of Mourinho and unable to deal with strong characters, Zlatan also scoffed at his former teammates for being dumb enough to follow the orders of their manager.

“In Italy, the coach says ‘jump’ and we say ‘why?’. In Barcelona everyone jumps,” - moans Zlatan on an apparently frightening autocratic regime that has produced two Champions League trophies in three years.

Sport can’t wait for Wednesday’s encounter and ponder “will Pep shake hands with the 'bad boy'?” - something that sounds rather dirty to LLL’s smutty ears. Josep María Casanovas writes that Zlatan’s taunts from across the Med are extra motivation for Wednesday’s match. “The players have no rancour or obsession, but it bothers them that all this was said behind their backs in a book rather than to their faces,” says the columnist.

"Can you sign this book for me, please...?"

Had the Milan man actually done just this during a surprise visit to Barça’s training facilities - which would have been a tad rude, quite frankly - then LLL imagines that the disappointed, hurt faces of little Leo, Xavi, Andrés and Pedro may not have been that intimidating a prospect for Zlatan. Although, the blog imagines that Víctor Valdés and Ibrahimovic in a scrap would be quite a sight.

But anyway, the blog digresses. As Sergio Busquets tries to point out, Barça are “playing Milan not Ibra” in a Champions League clash described by Joan Batlle in Sport as “semi-transcendental”, which LLL interprets as being a step away from being “like a final” - one of la Liga's favourite clichés.

Before all that takes place, Real Madrid are in action at home to Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday in a game from which just a point is needed for the forces of Mordor to finish top of their group. So as there was almost nothing to talk about ahead of the game aside from whether Nuri Sahin would start, José Mourinho was probed about his exuberant celebrations during Saturday’s 3-2 win over Valencia.

“Valencia should be proud of our celebrations. You don’t celebrate like that in a normal match against a normal rival,” claimed the Madrid manager with logic that LLL can sort of see, which is a worrying situation.

Poor old battered, bruised Villarreal are also in action on Tuesday against Bayern Munich in a clash that could see the Yellow Submarine returning to Spain with a few dents in the hull. “We are realistic and we know that it will be difficult to win,” noted Juan Carlos Garrido who then went for the ‘hey, we’re just happy to be playing Bayern’ approach.

“Being here is a prize so we should enjoy it, being here at this ground and against this rival is a prize for everyone.” The question now is whether this prize will be a booby one.