UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, El Clasico Marathon Updates
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Barcelona have already all but locked up the La Liga title.
Real Madrid just won the Copa del Rey at the expense of Barcelona.
Now that the two hated rivals have battled it out for Spain's two biggest domestic trophies, they get to hash things out two more times to help decide who will hoist the most coveted trophy in all of Europe: The UEFA Champions League.
It will conclude a wild 18-day stretch where the two historic giants battle for an unprecedented four times. Americans may struggle to grasp the gravity of such a stretch, but imagine if the New York Jets played the New England Patriots for four consecutive weeks. Then, add in a century's worth of bad blood stemming from not only on-the-pitch battles, but deeply-rooted political and social tension, too.
Oh, and they're widely regarded as the two best sides in the world. They each boast two of the best attackers in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Stay tuned, we'll keep you up to date with all of the latest anything and everything Barcelona- and Real Madrid-related.
Real Madrid continue to protest what they perceive to be an unjust red card awarded to Pepe during their Champions League clash on Wednesday night at the Bernabéu.
Madrid took the offensive against the officiating with a series of posts on their official website.
Under the headline "Television images show that Pepe did not touch Alves' leg," the site highlights a handful of images with the controversial play that left Madrid a man down.
Madrid also published a handful of clippings under the headline "World press agrees: Pepe did not deserve a red card."
Underneath, they posted the following excerpts, along with several more:
Pete Jenson, The Independent (UK)
"Pepe was shown a red card for a challenge on Dani Alves after the break with the theatrical reaction to the foul ensuring the card was red and not yellow, as it should have been."
Daily Mirror (UK)
"Real defender Pepe went on 62 minutes for a studs-up challenge on Dani Alves. It was a yellow card at worst. But the Barcelona players surrounded Stark like a pack of wolves to demand action. The official panicked and produced red."
Jacopo Gerna, Gazzeta dello Sport (Italy)
"Harsh send-off. Without Pepe's questionable red card on the 61-minute mark the match couldn't have ended the way it did."
"In a match plagued by errors and confrontations, the most noteworthy was Pepe's send-off."
"An excessive red card for Pepe left Real Madrid with ten men a fourth time against Barcelona."
"Stark's mistake was to call a red card when it should have been yellow, but his greatest sin was to deprive us of football."
Add Real Madrid lightning rod Cristiano Ronaldo to those who has his concerns over the officiating of the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona UEFA Champions League semifinal tilt on Wednesday night.
His manager Jose Mourinho has already aired his gripes about how the game was handled by the refereeing crew, now the prolific Portuguese winger Ronaldo has echoed the sentiments that have been making headlines from the Madrid camp.
Ronaldo admitted he has seen a Champions League pattern in pivotal matches that involve Barcelona: their opponents always seem to be reduced to 10 men. He was quoted by The Guardian as saying:
"I do not understand why everyone playing against them (Barcelona) in the Champions League ends with 10 men. Arsenal, Chelsea...
"It is not an excuse but playing against 10 is very different to playing with 11.
"If I had tried to talk to him (Stark) I would have got a yellow card. We are sad in the dressing room because every year is the same.
"I wish I had the chance as Messi did to play against 10 because then everything is so much easier.
"We controlled the game at 11 versus 11 but we conceded two goals when we were down to 10.
"Every year is the same and I do not understand. The truth is that getting through the tie is now very difficult, but in football anything can happen."
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho's allegations that Barcelona were favoured by referees during their Champions League semifinal clash at the Santiago Bernabéu because of the Catalans' partnership with UNICEF has incensed the non-profit fund.
The children's rights agency is in its final year of affiliation with the Spanish giants, but it didn't stop Mourinho from conspiring that their link was on the mind of referees on Wednesday night's game.
Mourinho was quoted as saying:
"I don't know if it is the Unicef sponsorship or if it is because they are nice guys. I don't understand," he said. "Congratulations to Barcelona on being a great team and congratulations for all the other stuff you have which must be very hard to achieve. They have power and we have no chance."
According to the same report, Barcelona have contacted their legal advisors on further steps to take regarding Mourinho's allegations.
As for UNICEF, it has this to say:
"I saw that," said their spokesperson, Marixie Mercado. "Essentially, it's a club matter, it's not something we would comment on."
Barcelona will no longer don the UNICEF label on their shirts next year while beginning a partnership with the Qatar Foundation.
Jose Mourinho was irate following Real Madrid's 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Barcelona.
He wasn't mad that Lionel Messi ran circles around his defense en route to a brace to all but knock Los Blancos off Europe's biggest stage, but for a series of fouls assessed to his own team that left them shorthanded both during Wednesday's tilt and missing a few key components—Pepe and Sergio Ramos—in the return leg at the Camp Nou.
Mourinho's tirade opened up a debate that has been sizzling hot since last summer's World Cup that featured a laundry list of reasons for officiating discontent: Is it time for football to embrace instant replay like most major sports already have?
Purists balk at the thought of utilizing replay, but replays themselves have shown that it could benefit the sport.
Mourinho's anger stemmed from a handful of calls, but the one that incensed him the most was when Pepe was shown a straight red card on a questionable tackle in what was then a 0-0 game. Replays were inconclusive—some made it look like Pepe barely made contact with Barcelona's Dani Alves and others looked like he clipped his leg accidentally.
Other calls (or non calls) in recent years have had much greater consequences than Pepe's sendoff:
- France made it into last summer's World Cup on an extra-time goal in a playoff against Ireland when he controlled the ball with his hand twice on the same play.
- England's Frank Lampard has a goal disallowed in the World Cup semifinals against Germany that clearly crossed the line.
- The United States had a disallowed goal against Slovenia that cost the Yanks two points and could have potentially left them out of the knockout stage.
These are just a few that have drawn the ire of managers and fans alike. So again, we ask, is it time for re-open the replay debate?
Maybe Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid vs. Barcelona conspiracy theories weren't completely unfounded, after all.
Less than 24 hours after Barcelona's controversial 2-0 UEFA Champions League victory over Real Madrid, UEFA announced that it's opening a disciplinary investigation after an incident-marred semifinal tilt at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Among the noteworthy episodes that sparked UEFA's looking into the matter: Real Madrid's Pepe was controversially given a red card on a questionable foul against Dani Alves, Barcelona reserve goalkeeper was shown red for his involvement in a melee outside in the tunnel as the teams went into the dressing rooms at halftime and Madrid manager Mourinho was banished from the touchline for protesting Pepe's sendoff.
UEFA posted the following on its website:
Following last night's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona, UEFA has opened the following disciplinary cases against the clubs.
The case against Real Madrid is in relation to the throwing of missiles, a pitch invasion, the red card shown to Pepe, the dismissal of coach José Mourinho, as well as the inappropriate statement given by Mr Mourinho to the media after the match (UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, Article 5 – Principles of conduct).
The case against Barcelona regards the red card administered to José Pinto.
Both cases will be heard by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on Friday 6 May.
Lionel Messi put on a dazzling display in Barcelona's 2-0 first-leg victory at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night over Real Madrid.
He scored twice, once on an excellent finish with a brilliant setup and another shortly thereafter on a classic Messi display where he took on essentially Madrid's entire defense.
But was it an all-time performance for the ages by a Barcelona footballer at the famed Bernabéu? That honour is still reserved for onetime Catalan superstar (and fellow South American) Ronaldinho.
Ronaldinho's brace on November 19 2005 in an El Clasico clash at the Bernabéu not only sealed a 3-0 Barcelona victory, but his amazing effort even earned the respect of the Madrid fans. When he was subbed out with the game in hand, the Madrid fans actually gave the villain who just almost singlehandedly annihilated their team a standing ovation.
Although Messi's spectacular display on Wednesday didn't earn him the admiration of the Madrid fans—that probably had much to do with the fact their team is likely done in Europe—his performance did help him fulfill his role as 'Dinho's protege.
Before tonight's tilt, Umaid Wasim prophetically wrote:
The fact that I go back to that performance in many of my articles is because that blitz from Ronaldinho was a truly spectacular one. The way in which he broke the shackles to tear apart their arch-rivals cannot be repeated by any other player at present other than Messi.
In 2005, Messi had just broken into the Barcelona senior team while a Mexican midfield starlet Giovanni Dos Santos was homing his skills in the Barcelona’s famed youth academy — the La Masia.
And both were touted as Ronaldinho’s protégés.
While Dos Santos lost his way, it was Messi who stepped up to replace the Brazilian star when he left the club for AC Milan in 2008.
Now, its high time that Messi shows that he really has replaced his mentor with a performance that could be reminiscent to that of Ronaldinho on that night in the Spanish capital.
Consider it (just about) done.
Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side experienced a great UEFA Champions League on hostile turf against Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
The Catalans were aided by a vintage second-half performance from 23-year-old Argentinian maestro Lionel Messi, who scored both of Barcelona's goals.
Barca will head into the return leg at home with a 2-0 aggregate advantage and two crucial away goals. Still, Guardiola cautioned his team that they should not start looking ahead to a final date on May 29 at famed Wembley in London.
Guardiola told UEFA.com:
We played a great match. With 11 players we controlled the speed of Madrid's attacks and their passing game. We were more aggressive and we must congratulate the team. A side like Madrid never give up a match or a tie. People in Barcelona know the respect we have for them. We have to recover for [Saturday's] league match and the second leg next Tuesday, but we are not at Wembley yet.
We are lucky to have Messi; at the age of 23, he's the third top scorer in our club's history and that's impressive. It's the beauty of our attacking style. We have corrected some things from the Copa del Rey final, things we did wrong.Playing several times against the same team means that we know each other better than ever, so we must be careful. We have not reached the fina. We've only won 2-0 in the first leg.
We came here with a lot of players who grew up in La Masía and we controlled the game. We did not allow Madrid chances throughout the first half and that's very hard to do. I'm very proud. [David] Villa was sharp and [Seydou] Keita's work was also very important. But Madrid will be more dangerous on Tuesday.
Is it possible for Real Madrid to make a miracle comeback in next week's UEFA Champions League tilt in Barcelona?
Probably not. And it has Los Blancos manager Jose Mourinho frustrated, defeated and pointing fingers.
Madrid weren't completely outclassed by their Catalan rivals on Wednesday's clash at the Santiago Bernabéu. In fact, aside from Barcelona's typical gaudy possession stats, neither side was especially dominant or particularly sharp until Pepe was controversially sent off for a tackle against Barcelona's Dani Alves.
Mourinho was soon banished away from the touchline for protesting the red card. After the game He wasn't especially diplomatic toward the officiating, nor was he optimistic about Madrid's chances in the return leg.
He was quoted as saying:
"If I say to (the referee) and to UEFA what I think and feel, my career ends today,'' Mourinho said. "One day I hope to get an answer to the question: why?'
"We'll go there with pride, without Pepe who did nothing, without Ramos who did nothing and the coach who can't be on the bench. If we score a goal they'll kill us again. It's a result that is impossible.
"Today showed we have no possibility. And my question is why? I'll live my whole life with this question but I hope one day to get the answer. Why in a game that was equal did he do what he did? But he won't answer, he'll go home because he doesn't have to answer to anyone.''
I mean, stranger things have happened when Real Madrid and Barcelona play.
But let's be honest here: Lionel Messi has already put Barcelona into the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley on May 29.
Real Madrid are more than capable of overcoming a 2-0 deficit, but is it realistic considering Los Blancos will be without Sergio Ramos and Pepe (both because of suspension) and they'll be playing at the Camp Nou?
By the way, the last time an El Clasico was held on Barcelona soil, this happened.
So let's start looking at the more-than-likely Champions League final: Manchester Untied vs. Barcelona.
We've seen this before—two years ago, in fact. Barcelona triumphed 2-0 in the Champions League final in Rome to send the title holders home in defeat.
Barcelona have been arguably the world's most dominant side, running roughshod through their La Liga title en route to another domestic title.
United haven't been quite as dominant as Barcelona, but Sir Alex Ferguson's resilient bunch have held off title challenges from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and will likely retake the English Premier League title. Wayne Rooney has seemingly regained his form and Javier Hernandez "Chicharito" has emerged as a go-to attacking partner for Rooney up top.
The final is far from set yet. But it appears that the two sides that conquered Europe's two biggest domestic will meet on Europe's biggest stage.
Lionel Messi etched his name into the El Clasico record books with a second-half performance for the ages to put Barcelona in a commanding position over Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League semifinal tilt on Wednesday night.
Messi scored twice to give Barcelona two crucial away goals and take a commanding 2-0 aggregate lead heading into Tuesday's return leg at the Camp Nou.
Messi slotted home a cross from Ibrahim Affellay in the 74th minute and scored on a brilliant 1 vs. 5 solo effort in the 82nd minute to put the 10-man Madrid away for good.
The Argentine winger had yet to score a goal in 10 previous matches against Jose Mourinho-coached teams.
Madrid will have to overcome a two-goal deficit in next week's tie also without the services of Sergio Ramos, who received an automatic suspension for yellow-card accumulation and Pepe, who was shown a straight red card for a sloppy tackle in the second half.
Barcelona would reach their second final in three years and third in six years if they are to hold off Madrid.
Shortly after Real Madrid were reduced to 10 men, Lionel Messi deservedly gave Barcelona a crucial away goal and a 1-0 advantage in the 74th minute of their UEFA Champions League semifinal tilt at the Bernabéu.
Ibrahim Affellay danced through the Madrid defense and placed a perfect low cross for the diminutive Argentine. Messi perfectly megged Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas to set off a massive celebration for the Catalans in front of the Madrid fans.
It was the first time Messi has scored against a Jose Mourinho-coached team. Messi had previously faced Mourinho 10 times and hadn't scored against the self-proclaimed "special one."
Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola was shown on the sideline pumping his fists as soon as Messi found the back of the net.
It's worth noting, however, that Madrid scored an equalizer (also at the Bernabéu) 12 days ago when Ronaldo scored a penalty in the final minutes of the first of four El Clasico clashes.
Ten minutes to go, stay tuned.
For the second time in three matches against Barcelona, Real Madrid were reduced to 10 men when winger Pepe was shown a straight red for a somewhat reckless challenge against Barcelona's Dani Alves.
Pepe appeared to be going for the ball but replays were unclear as to whether or not he kicked Alves in the knee on purpose or not—or if there was even much contact to begin with. Pepe will miss the return leg at the Camp Nou next week.
Alves was carried off the pitch in a stretcher and returned to the game less than a minute later.
The sendoff was enough to incense Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho. Mourinho berated the official and was also seen having words with Barcelona captain Carles Puyol. Mourinho was banned from the touchline by the referees. He was later seen on replays passing a note to one of his assistants from his seat.
Shortly after David Villa was denied by Iker Casillas and Pedro nearly capitalized on the rebound.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are all knotted up at halftime 0-0 of their Champions League semifinal tilt at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Fittingly, Barcelona, exhibiting their tiki taka possession-heavy style, controlled the majority of the first half's possession. The Catalans didn't find much space to flaunt their style, however, as they spent much of the half passing the ball around in their own half.
David Villa had Barca's best opportunity when a low-range shot had Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas beat, but his shot glanced just wide of the post.
Cristiano Ronaldo fired a tricky long-range shot near the end of the first half that Victor Valdes was able to stop. Mesut Ozil gathered the rebound and fired another tough shot that Valdes came up with, although, Ozil was called offside.
Replays showed that the teams got into a minor skirmish while heading into the tunnel at halftime at the Bernabéu. Valdes, Sergio Ramos and Seydou Keita appeared to be involved in the fray.
Four games in 18 days—think these already-bitter rivals are sick of each other yet?
Not surprisingly, Barcelona midfield Maestro Andres Iniesta was left out of the starting XI for tonight's pivotal UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Real Madrid due to injury problems.
Seydou Keita stepped into Iniesta's spot in the midfield for today's battle at the Bernabéu.
Real Madrid starting IX:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas; defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Marcelo Vieira; midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Pepe, Lass; attackers: Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria; subs: Gonzalo Higuain, Emmanuel Addebayor, Karim Benzema, Esbetan Granero, Kaka, Les Dudek, Antonio Garay, Antionio Adan.
Barcelona starting IX:
Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes; defenders: Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol; midfielders: Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Seydou Keita; forwards: Lionel Messi, Pedro, David Villa; subs: Jeffren, Roberto, Afellay, Milito, Alcantara, Fontas, Montoya, Pinto.
Tonight's battle is the third time in an 18-day span the two storied Spanish rivals will meet. The only two other times Barcelona and Real Madrid have met in a European semifinal was in 1960 and 2002 with Madrid winning both times.
Stay tuned here and we'll keep you updated throughout the game for additional updates and analysis.
Just a day before the first of two (more) epic Real Madrid vs. Barcelona tilts, Madrid bosses did what they could to try and silence the Cristiano Ronaldo-to-AC Milan rumour.
Few took it seriously to begin with, since Real Madrid have never been considered light in the wallet.
Still, it didn't stop Real Madrid general director Jorge Valdano from trying to dispel the rumours, anyway.
According to a goal.com report, Valdano was flattered but ultimately uninterested in AC Milan's overtures for Ronaldo.
"It's nice to hear that a president like Berlusconi and a club like Milan dream of our players," Valdano told Sky Sport Italia. "But Cristiano Ronaldo will remain with us."
Portuguese winger Ronaldo scored Los Blancos' game-winner in Real Madrid's 1-0 triumph over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. The Italian giants AC Milan have since pledged their willingness to do whatever it takes to bring Ronaldo to Milan.
Real Madrid and Barcelona face each other in tonight's UEFA Champions League semifinal at the Bernabéu and again on Tuesday at the Camp Nou.