Zidane better than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Cazorla

Arsenal star Santi Cazorla says that France legend Zinedine Zidane is the best player he has ever faced rather than Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo or Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

The former Villarreal and Malaga midfielder locked horns with the Frenchman a number of times during his spell at Madrid, and the Frenchman has made a lasting impression on Cazorla.

“During your life you always have different players that you like. When I was a child, because my dad liked the ‘Dream Team’, I liked Michael Laudrup,” the Spain international stated to EFE.

“But I have always said the best player I have played against, and the most elegant player, was Zidane. There’s Messi and Ronaldo, but I still think being lucky enough to play against Zidane, and see him play, was amazing. He is still the best.

“He looked like he was going to be clumsy because of his height, but then you realised he was so skillful and gifted with the ball. I really enjoyed watching him play, it was a pleasure. I would highlight everything about him, because he had everything to be the best player.”

Zidane wore the shirt of Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid during his playing career, while also representing France on more than 100 occasions.

Barcelona – Real Madrid Betting Preview: Why backing Madrid to get at least a draw holds value

The 12th Clasico in the last two years sees these two rivals meet in what would otherwise be a fairly meaningless fixture against another opponent.

The Spanish Supercopa effectively means extremely little, but when it sees Barcelona and Real Madrd pitted against one another, it becomes more than merely a curtain-raiser to the season, and turns into a vital encounter in the constant battle to gain the psychological advantage.

Barcelona have of course, in recent years, had the upper hand both mentally and in footballing terms, with Madrid recording just one victory in their last 15 encounters.

price another win for the Spanish champions at 3/1 (4.00) while Barcelona can be backed at 5/6 (1.83) and the draw is offered at 14/5 (3.80).

Given that the last seven Clasicos have seen both teams score, it is hardly surprising to find a repeat offered at 8/15 (1.53). The odds are not huge but for punters looking to invest in a relatively low-risk bet this looks like a wise selection.

For those with a more casual approach, the price of 19/20 (1.95) on ‘Real Madrid or Draw’ looks to offer some considerable value in the double chance market.

Though Madrid’s recent record in this fixture is far from impressive, crucially the last time the sides met, back in April, it was Los Blancos who earned the victory with the 2-1 win at the Camp Nou all but sealing their 32nd League title.

The psychological barrier has been broken and Madrid under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, the master of the two-legged tie, are more than capable of coming away from Catalonia with at least a draw.

In terms of a value bet, the price of 10/3 (4.33) for Madrid to win the first half looks tempting, given that this bet has paid out in two of the last three Clasicos.

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

Vilanova & Barcelona desperate to beat Real Madrid & prove they can win without Guardiola

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

What a difference a year makes.

This time, 12 months ago, it was Real Madrid who were fired up and flying as the season got underway, intent on making a statement by winning the Spanish Supercopa against their fiercest of rivals, Barcelona.

In August 2011, uncertainty remained over the future of Mourinho’s Madrid. With only a Copa del Rey to their name from his first campaign in charge, the Portuguese was looking to begin his second season in style.

Now, similar uncertainty can be found in Barcelona.

Despite a chaotic pre-season with injuries, experimental line-ups, players returning late and mixed results last summer, the Catalans claimed the Spanish Supercopa with a 5-4 aggregate win over Madrid, and went on to add three more titles in 2011-12 as Pep Guardiola ended his tenure with 14 out of a possible 19 trophies.

Behind the scenes, however, things were not as harmonious as they appeared at the Camp Nou last season. There were bust-ups with both Gerard Pique and Dani Alves, many players tired of Guardiola’s necessity to hog the media limelight, while Cesc Fabregas recently admitted that he struggled to adapt to Pep’s tactics on the pitch, too.

Guardiola looked to Johan Cruyff at times to resolve tactical questions and it was the side’s use of the Dream Team’s 3-4-3 system that raised the most doubts last term. There were too many tweaks and players sometimes felt uncomfortable with their roles on the pitch. Points were dropped, and ultimately the deficit could not be clawed back as Barca relinquished La Liga to Madrid, while there was an uncharacteristically poor performance in both Champions League semi-final games against Chelsea. This was not the Barcelona of previous years. Guardiola was tired – and the players were tired of him.

Vilanova has now assumed control and, while little is known about the former assistant on the outside, there is a growing feeling within the club that he was responsible for much of Barca’s brilliant play over the last four seasons.

The players, too, are eager to show they can win without Pep and are more motivated than they have been since Guardiola’s first season in charge of the Catalan club. They feel they have a point to prove.

This summer, Barca neglected lucrative offers to tour Asia and the United States, preferring instead to play their preparation games in cities like Bucharest and Gothenburg, rather than Seattle and Shanghai. Now, it is all about winning the Supercopa.

Vilanova is fully aware of the constant comparisons with Guardiola and has already claimed he cannot compete with his friend and former colleague. He knows, nonetheless, that winning the Supercopa will dispel doubts over his regime at this early stage.

However, failure to do so will bring the first voices of discontent – whatever the circumstances of the 180 minutes of action at Camp Nou on Thursday and at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday.

So while he may have claimed publicly that this competition is low down on his list of priorities, Vilanova will want to win this Spanish Supercopa at all costs, in order to start his spell on the front foot and lay down a marker for the rest of the campaign. So, too, do the players.

This Barcelona is more than just Guardiola. Now, Vilanova and his squad are ready to prove it.

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Milla: Madrid are favourites to win Supercopa

Former Spain Under-21 coach Luis Milla believes that Real Madrid hold the edge over Barcelona ahead of their Spanish Supercopa tie as they have home-advantage in the second leg.

The Catalans proved to be the stronger side last season after successfully defending their lead in the return at Camp Nou, but Milla believes Madrid could come out victorious this time around.

“Madrid have the advantage because they are playing the return at home. Both teams are pretty similar, though. Barca might have changed coaches, but their philosophy remains the same,” Milla was quoted as saying by Sport.

The 46-year-old then went on to express his delight with David Villa’s return to match action, and stressed that the attacker can play a key role for Barca.

“The most positive thing is the return of Villa. He is a decisive player because of his goals, and his character will be very important for the team’s morale. He has status and is a guarantee for 25 goals if he’s fit.”

Thursday’s first leg at Camp Nou kicks off at 22:30CET.

'The Only One' he hasn't won: Mourinho seeks Supercopa to complete a Spanish set

Jose Mourinho - Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho – Real Madrid

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Jose Mourinho is, in his own words, no longer simply ‘special’. Now, the Portuguese pondered recently, he should be known not as the ‘Special One’, but as ‘The Only One’, due to his unprecedented collection of league titles in England, Italy and Spain – an achievement only he has managed.

But having won all there is to win in Portugal, England and Italy, Mourinho is still missing a trophy in Spain: the only one now eluding ‘The Only One’ is the Spanish Supercopa.

The 49-year-old has often given short shrift to the less glamorous titles, famously leaving Inter for Real Madrid in 2010 instead of adding a Uefa Super Cup, another Supercoppa Italiana and a Club World Cup to his impressive collection. “Those titles aren’t very important,” he said at the time.

Then, the chance to coach Real was a greater attraction, but when Mourinho is in it, he wants to win it. His competitive nature wouldn’t have it any other way. As he revealed on Wednesday: “The Supercopa is the least important competition… but we want to win it.”


Supercoppa Italiana (Inter, 2008)

Community Shield (Chelsea, 2005)

Supertaca C. de Oliveira (Porto, 2003)

At Porto, Mourinho led the Dragoes to two league titles, one Portuguese cup, a Uefa Cup and a Champions League, as well as securing the Supertaca Candido de Oliveira in 2003. In his next role, at Chelsea, the Portuguese steered the Blues to two Premier League trophies, one FA Cup, two League Cups and a Community Shield success, in 2005. At Inter, he then guided the Nerazzurri to back-to-back Scudetti, a Coppa Italia and a Champions League crown, alongside the sole Supercoppa Italiana he claimed in 2008. Over the years, he has won it all.

It is an astonishing achievement. An incredible 17 trophies at three clubs, in three different countries. And now, the 49-year-old is beginning to work his magic in Spain, too, where he has added the Copa del Rey and La Liga to his ever-growing collection of silverware, getting the better of Barcelona on each occasion.

Now, Mourinho will look to do so once again as Merengues meet Catalans over two games, at Camp Nou on Thursday and then at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday, in the Spanish Supercopa. And unlike last season’s series, this time Madrid close the tie at home. On this occasion, against a Tito Vilanova seeking his very first piece of silverware as Barca boss, Mourinho will be looking to seal his 20th title.

‘The Only One’ can claim the only one he has yet to win. Come out on top against Barca and he’ll complete a Spanish set – so you can imagine how much he wants to win it.

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