Can ya smell that folks? And no, it's not Gabe's scent--because apparently, according to him, he smells like awesome; though I've never been in the same room with our Editor-in-Chief, I'm going to say this smells like sweat and desperation. Anyways, what I'm getting at is this: we're in El Clasico mode around these parts.
It'll be that way for the next two weeks, though we do have a normal Liga fixture during the weekend, but we can get to that later. Right now, lets indulge ourselves in another great edition of Bernabeu Bites, where we take a look at news, and take pot shots at the Blaugrana.
Why? Because it's fun.
If you missed it yesterday, FC Barcelona actually had to come from behind at Camp Nou to finish off a Real Betis side that wanted nothing more than to win in Barcelona's house. Alas, that was not to be, but there were some mental defensive errors on the part of the blaugrana, although manager Pep Guardiola is sure that the defense and the team aren't a bunch of lazy footballers.
"They have to do a pretty poor job for me to doubt their commitment and level of relaxation," he told the club's official website. "If anything this team doesn't relax. It's impossible to win everything we've won if they didn't behave the way they do." "I haven't seen any symptoms of them not wanting to try until the end, to win all the titles in play."
I wouldn't call them lazy...complacent possibly, but not lazy.
From the "Are you just making shit up?" transfer rumor file comes this gem: apparently los blancos are interested in Wolverhampton Wanderers "star" Steven Fletcher. The rub here is that he's not being scouted for the first team, oh no..he's being scouted for Real Madrid Castilla. If we were to sign the youngster and he actually showed some promise, he might get a shot at first team football at some point in the future.
At first he said he wouldn't leave Santos until after the Club World Cup...and then it was the Olympics. Now it's not until after the 2014 World Cup held in his native Brazil. If you haven't guessed who I'm talking about by now, it's Neymar. And it seems that the blaugrana have set their eyes on him for 2014.
Or at least that's what FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell says.
"After 2014, when his contract expires, we will see," Rosell told COM Radio. "That is when he wants to take the next step. "Neymar is a long-term affair. Then we will talk."
Santos actually announced Neymar's new contract today. Whoopee. At this point, FC Barcelona can have him -- frankly, I don't care and I've seen another kid that Real Madrid supposedly have their eyes on (which is another post entirely, and will be forthcoming).
When he's not whining about refs or taking a dive to win a penalty, Xavi of FC Barcelona is getting snubbed by his teammate Lionel Messi for the Ballon d'Or. I bet after having to play second fiddle to the leader of the Lollipop Guild gets tiring. Even former FC Barcelona player, coach, and general gas bag Johan Cruyff knows that Xavi is by no means better than his teammate Messi.
"Xavi isn't better than Messi but, looking at his career, it'd be a disgrace for soccer if he'd never win the Ballon d'Or," legendary Barca player and coach Johan Cruyff, himself a three-time winner, told EL9.
Phil Ball over at ESPN Soccer Net penned a piece on the upcoming El Clasico, arguing that there seems to be an air of burnout in the wind for Barcelona.
A five-point advantage is a rare luxury, but psychologically it will seem like peanuts again if they lose over the two legs. As far as Barcelona are concerned, the tie represents a nasty challenge. If they lose it, the collateral damage may be far greater than the relatively minor problem of losing in the final last season. Out of the cup and trailing in the league is not a wonderful prospect, although the nature of the consequences can also depend, given the special nature of this rivalry, on the manner of the defeat.
Please, do yourself a favor and go over there and read the whole thing.
Over at Futbolita (which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine) Ash has a picture of one of Jose Mourinho's sticky notes. You see him endlessly jotting things down on that note pad of his; it's his trademark after all. Well, that and his scarves, which you don't see as much anymore.
Former FC Barcelona and current Flamengo striker Ronaldinho is not getting paid. Yes you read that correctly, he hasn't been paid by the team in some time and is threatening to quit on the Brazilian side.
"I want to reach agreement and then he can compete in the Copa Libertadores. But I don't know if that's going to happen," de Assis told the newspaper Extra ahead of the January 25 tie against Bolivian side Real Potosi.
Three-quarters of Ronaldinho's salary is covered by marketing group Traffic, who have not paid in five months, amounting to $2.05 million. "Someone has to take that on, they have to pay. We've been waiting for five months now.
They (Flamengo and Traffic) have to reach agreement but that seems difficult to me. Five months have gone by and there has been nothing," de Assis continued.