Mario Balotelli might have worn the t-shirt but he must have got the idea from Madrid because it doesn’t matter what’s going on, it’s always about Jose Mourinho, isn’t it?
Football’s original narcissist cannot let any situation develop without making himself the centre of attention and here we are again, ahead of a potentially fantastic Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid, talking about the Portuguese poser. Again.
Stung by criticism of the 2-1 home defeat to Barcelona last week that means his team need to score twice at the Camp Nou to stand any chance of progressing tonight, the Real Madrid boss has gone into an almighty sulk.
The target of his ire has mainly been the press for daring to criticise his Royal Specialness for the negative tactics he employed in last week’s El Clasico, but also for reporting a training ground altercation between himself and some players who were questioning him after yet another defeat to the Catalans.
It has left Mourinho at his snarling and difficult worst, a press conference held yesterday turning into the equivalent of a teenage boy refusing to speak to his mum after being told off for not doing his homework.
Mourinho’s inability to get the better of Guardiola is eroding goodwill from the pro-Madrid press and supporters, who have every right to question why such an expensively-assembled squad adopt the tactics of a lower-league minnow when Barcelona are in town.
Alluding to cliques in the dressing room and the dark forces of the famously vociferous Spanish media, Mourinho looked like a man who has had enough. On the one hand, you can see his point – Madrid are five points clear of Barca in La Liga, having scored more goals than their rivals, and are going great in the Champions League.
But his inability to get the better of Barca boss Pep Guardiola is eroding the goodwill from the pro-Madrid press and the supporters, who have every right to question why such an expensively-assembled squad adopt the tactics of a lower-league minnow when Barcelona are in town and why a player as classy as Xabi Alonso is resorted to kicking people around the pitch like a modern-day Spanish Vinnie Jones.
Because above all else, the tactics aren’t working. Since Mourinho took charge in summer 2010, Madrid have won just one of nine El Clasico fixtures, an extra-time Copa del Rey final win. Barcelona have won five, including a crucial Champions League semi-final, but more importantly surged to a La Liga and Champions League double.
So the pressure tonight is on Mourinho, who has the cat-whistles of the Bernabeu ringing in his ears, and the odds aren’t favourable. Bwin make Barcelona the 3/5 favourites to win the match in 90 minutes tonight, with Madrid priced up at 15/4 and the draw, a result that would see Barcelona through on aggregate, a 16/5 chance.
Madrid are 11/2 to qualify for the next round, which gives some indication of their task. Another is Barcelona’s home form: they have won nine and drawn one of their ten home games in La Liga to an incredible aggregate score of 43-2. When games in all competitions are considered, the aggregate is 54-4.
It is a simply staggering statistic. You don’t need me to eulogise once again about the football Barcelona play, and I think that they will have too much for Madrid once more.
With discontent in the Madrid camp, Guardiola will know a convincing win for Barcelona tonight could have wider-reaching implications than just the Copa del Rey, and his men will be going all out to twist the knife they have already stuck in.
But instead of the 3/5 on a Barca win, take the 23/20 on Barca to win a match that produces over 2.5 goals. Madrid are an obvious goal threat and only three times all year has a Barcelona win featured less than three goals, so you are enhancing your odds on a more likely outcome.
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