Casillas: Madrid can cope with injuries

Iker Casillas is confident that Real Madrid have what it takes to cope with the absence of several first team regulars in Saturday’s Liga match at home against Celta Vigo.

The reigning champions will have to make do without the services of Fabio Coentrao, Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo after the trio picked up injuries while away on international duty, but the 31-year-old has insisted that they have adequate replacements.

“We have enough alternatives to plug the gaps left by the Fifa virus. There are players in our reserves who are very capable indeed,” Casillas told reporters at a promotional event.

“I am sure the boss will pick the best people for the game against Celta.”

Casillas also took the time to discuss the criticism he has recently received, and insisted it is a part of the game to which he has become accustomed.

“You take the criticism with a sense of humour. You have to respect people’s right to criticise. As long as it’s constructive criticism, it’s a positive thing.

“When you’ve been at the top and in a club like Real Madrid this long you know that in two or three matches things can change. I’ve been living many years with this.”

Saturday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu kicks off at 18:00CET.

Real Madrid – Celta Vigo Preview: Depleted Blancos plot return to winning ways

Real Madrid are facing an ever-growing sick list that could rob them of a half a dozen players for their Primera Division encounter with Celta Vigo.

Full-backs Marcelo (foot), Alvaro Arbeloa (hamstring) and Fabio Coentrao (groin) are definitely out after sustaining injuries during international duty, while Sami Khedira, Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain are all racing to be fit for the Bernabeu match.

Coach Jose Mourinho looks set to ease his defensive crisis by handing a start to Castilla’s Nacho at left-back, with Sergio Ramos likely to step in at the opposite flank.

Celta Vigo goalkeeper Javi Varas has resumed training after suffering a dislocated finger and may return to the starting XI.

Nacho Insa (knee) and Andres Tunez (back) will be handed late fitness tests, while striker Toni (ankle) is fit.

  • The Castilian side have already dropped 10 points in La Liga this term, just four fewer than in the whole of last season.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured, right) has scored eight goals in his last three matches for Real in all competitions.
  • Celta Vigo are yet to win on their travels in La Liga this term, having lost all three of their away fixtures to date.
  • However, Os Celestes triumphed against Madrid on their last two Liga visits to the Bernabeu.
  • Celta’s last defeat away to Real was a 4-2 reverse in February 2004.

'Catalunya is not Spain' – how politics will always divide Barcelona & Real Madrid

In the coming weeks, Goal.com will publish exclusive extracts from Richard Fitzpatrick’s new book, El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid, Football’s Greatest Rivalry.

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Barcelona have long been a standard-bearer for separatist sentiment in Catalonia, particularly during General Franco’s 36-year fascist dictatorship, which ended with his death in November 1975.

As coach, Pep Guardiola used to speak in Catalan during press conferences. Seven million people speak Catalan, which is closer to French than it is to castellano, Castilian Spanish.

Dismissive madrilenos call Catalans polacos, or Poles, because of the alien, slurping sound of their language. There is a clause in player contracts at Barca which states that foreign players must embrace the Catalan language.

Perched in the north-east corner of Spain, Catalunya thinks of itself being closer culturally to its Mediterranean neighbours France and Italy than it does to Madrid, off to the west.

Catalans even have an expression for what makes them different to other Spaniards, el hecho diferencial – the differentiating fact. They prize sobriety, enterprise and hard work. They reckon that they have their own yin and yang; that they’re a mix between seny i rauxa, common sense and madness. Barca fans maintain that Guardiola is the quintessence of seny.

“In a way, Johan Cruyff’s way of thinking is the embodiment of rauxa,” says Justin Webster, an English documentary-maker living in Barcelona. “Cruyff when he was a player and coach at Barca was always doing revolutionary things because he came, rather like the Catalan chef Ferran Adria, from a working-class background. Nobody’s taught them to do anything. They start with a blank slate and they invent themselves. That appeals very much to a certain kind of Catalan idea – they’re absorbed with reinventing the nation.”

Winning formula | But Laporta was criticised for over-politicising Barca

A month after stepping down as president of Barca in June 2010, having won two Champions League titles in his seven-year reign, Joan Laporta set up a political party, Catalan Solidarity for Independence, which won four seats in Catalonia’s 135-member parliament in November 2010.

“From the beginning of the 20th century, Barca have always been considered the club of Catalunya,” he says. “Why? Because the board of directors in a general assembly supported the Estatut de Catalunya [a statute which defines its self-governing rights] in the 1930s and during my presidency, in 2006, we supported the new Estatut de Catalunya. Since democracy, Catalan rights are not being promoted, and if we don’t promote our rights, who is going to?

“Of course under the dictatorship, the repression was more evident. The Catalan language was forbidden. But today we are in the same process. Barca are a representative of Catalan culture, a symbolic church for our country. It is a way to promote our feelings, the best possible tool to promote the image of Catalunya to the world. It’s very important because we are giving a cause, a sense to our club, a reason to exist.”

Not many people outside Catalunya appreciate Laporta’s politics. Few around Spain – outside the Basque Country – sympathise with Catalunya’s push for independence, which is so ardently promoted by Barcelona. It offends their notion of a unified nation.

In 2005, for example, there was a damaging campaign to boycott cava, the sparkling wine synonymous with Catalunya, when it refused to back Madrid’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

There are roughly one million Real Madrid supporters in Catalonia. They feel besieged, a bit like a mining camp deep in Comanche Territory. They resent the overbearing separatist politics of Barca, particularly when it leaks into the school curriculum.

“In a lot of public schools in music class, the Barca anthem is taught to the children as if it was a Catalan folk song,” says author and journalist Jose Miguel Villarroya. “This is a problem. It’s the anthem of the Barca team, like the German anthem or the British anthem. It’s not a traditional Catalan song. People in Catalunya support other teams than Barca, like Espanyol and Real Madrid.

“Now there is an agenda. A lot of politicians, bankers and industrialists are trying to create a homogenous society. They say a good Catalan person loves Catalunya. Barca is the image of Catalunya. It is a great team. It wins a lot of trophies.

“The most important thing in Catalunya is Barca. It’s the central column of this feeling. So if you’re not from Barca, you’re not a good Catalan. If you’re from Real Madrid, you’re the devil incarnate.

Real Madrid is the foe, not only against Barcelona but also against Catalunya. “For these people, not all Catalans, Real Madrid represents the old orthodoxy, old Spain. It represents the old enemies – Franco’s time, centralism and restrictions on Catalans’ liberties. This makes it more difficult to be from Real Madrid at the moment.

“The resentment towards Real Madrid supporters is stronger now. They say, ‘Are you a Real Madrid fan? Well, then you are a fascist.’ When I was a child in Franco’s time, this was not a problem because there was no democracy. People couldn’t talk about politics. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Espanyol were only football teams.”

Laporta and his cohorts like to keep politics front and centre, however. “When a Spanish person tells you ‘sport is not politics’, don’t believe them,” he says.

“Only people who have a state feel comfortable with their structures, with their national teams. In that case there is no politics. But in our case, I can’t support my national team – the Catalan national team – in the World Cup. Then football is politics. Of course it is!

I’ve been involved in using football and sport in politics. Think about Cuba or think about the United States. Sport is not politics? My God!”

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There is an objective behind recent Casillas criticisms, claims Albiol

Iker Casillas - Real Madrid

Iker Casillas – Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s Raul Albiol claims that there is a campaign against Iker Casillas to prevent him from claiming this year’s Ballon d’Or award.

The Spanish press has been particularly critical of their national team captain over apparent mistakes he has committed in recent games and Albiol believes that it is not being done without reason.

“When these types of criticisms are made, there is an objective. This campaign is to give those who choose the Ballon d’Or one less problem,” the defender told EFE.

“It is clear that to win the award as a goalkeeper is very difficult but, if anyone can do, it is Iker. Last year, he won trophies with Spain and with Real Madrid. He had a great season.”

While Casillas has received criticism, other candidates for the award, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi have received praise. Albiol believes that all four players are worthy of winning and suggested one way of deciding who wins the accolade.

“The most just thing would be to give a Ballon d’Or to Cristiano, Messi, Iker and Iniesta too. There is only one, but many players would deserve it,” he added.

Albiol recognised that it is harder for a goalkeeper to win the award, but, insisted that this should not change anything if he deserves it.

“A keeper should have the same chance as an outfield player, and he has given a lot to Spanish football, the national team and Real Madrid,” he continued.

“He has been number one for many years and now everyone wants to destabilise him. Iker has long proven to be the number one and he still is. Some people want to remove him from this position. He is very calm. He’s young for a goalkeeper, despite the years and the titles that he already carries.”

Casillas has been criticised for the goals conceded in recent ties against Manchester City and Barcelona, particularly from set-pieces. But Albiol dismissed it all as unwarranted.

“I imagine that when he goes home it affects him – that is normal,” he said.

“He is always demanding of himself, and gets angry. He wants to stop everything. There is a lot of talk in the last weeks that he could have done more or less with different goals. It is normal that they expect a lot from him, but we know he is safe between the posts.”

I can play at left back, insists Real Madrid's Nacho

Real Madrid defender Nacho says that he is ready to step up to the first team for Saturday’s clash against Celta Vigo.

The Spanish giants have lost a number of players due to injuries picked up over the international break, including Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa.

Coach Jose Mourinho has few options available to him when his team host the Os Celestes this weekend and he may be forced to turn to 22-year-old Nacho.

The Castilla player is officially part of the first team this season, however, he is still yet to play in this year’s La Liga. Nevertheless, with first-team choices unavailable, the self-assured starlet believes this is his chance to prove himself.

“I am training during the whole year with the first team, the coach knows me and I am working hard so when I get the chance to prove myself, I will. I have spent much time with the first team and I have the right motivation,” he was quoted as saying by Marca.

Normally a central defender, the right-footed Nacho has no qualms about playing at left-back, the position where he actually made his debut for Real during Mourinho’s first season at the club.

“I play in the centre, but I have also played many times at full-back. I have no problems playing wherever the coach wants me to. I am right-handed, however, I can still play on the left,” he concluded.

Nacho’s one and only appearance for the first team this season was in the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy against Columbia’s Millonarios, which the Spaniards convincingly won 8-0.