Real Madrid – Espanyol Preview: Mourinho's men need a response to Copa del Rey disappointment


ESPANYOL

Roma
C. Alvarez
Lopez, Colotto, Moreno, V. Alvarez
Sanchez, Forlin
Garcia, Verdu, Simao
Stuani

Real Madrid will be eager to ensure their Liga defence does not take another blow when they host Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Jose Mourinho will welcome back a number of first team names who were rested in the midweek Copa del Rey defeat to Celta Vigo. Mesut Ozil is expected to fill the whole behind the striker while Sami Khedira returns to defensive midfield alongside Xabi Alonso.

The fans may feel more secure with Iker Casillas back between the posts, with Raphael Varane dropping out of the side to accommodate Sergio Ramos. With Marcelo still out with a fractured foot, Fabio Coentrao comes in at left-back.

Espanyol currently sit second from bottom in the table but Javier Aguirre can count on a full complement of players ahead of their trip to the capital. Christian Stuani will lead the line for the Catalan side while fellow South Americans Juan Forlin, Diego Colotto and Cristian Alvarez form the spine of the struggling side.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the highest-scoring player for Mourinho’s side with 13 league goals this term. Only Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao have scored more.
  • Los Blancos ran out 5-0 winners in this fixture last season. Two goals from Gonzalo Higuain were added to by Ronaldo, Sami Khedira (pictured right) and Kaka.
  • Espanyol have failed to score a single goal in their last six outings against los Blancos.
  • The Catalan side have not tasted victory at the Bernabeu since a 2-1 win in the 1995-96 season.
  • Los Blanquiblaus’ 75 seasons in La Liga makes them the longest-serving top-flight side to have failed to lift the championship.

Radamel Falcao could end up at Real Madrid next summer

SPECIAL REPORT
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

When Lionel Messi joined Barcelona as a talented teenager, an agreement was signed speedily on a servillette because Barcelona representative Carles Rexach could not find any paper. Now, more than a decade later, a new napkin could take Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid to city rivals Real.

At the AS Sports Awards earlier this week, Falcao’s agent Jorge Mendes handed a servillette to Madrid president Florentino Perez in order for the construction magnate to put pen to paper on a supposed deal for the striker. It may have been just in jest, but it is often said there is a grain of truth in every joke – and the reality is that Madrid would love to sign Falcao from their local rivals next summer.

The Colombian was linked with Madrid before moving from Porto to Atletico in the summer of 2011, but surprisingly ended up at the Vicente Calderon as Jose Mourinho failed to follow up his interest. Since then, however, Falcao has cemented his status as the world’s finest centre-forward – and that hasn’t gone unnoticed on the other side of the capital.

“FALCAO WOULD JOIN MADRID”
Goal.com Spain’s Chief Editor, Martin del Palacio Langer, believes Falcao would be interested in a move to Atletico’s cross-city rivals.

He says: “I think Falcao could very well end up at Real Madrid. I have interviewed him twice in the past few months and one of the things that impressed me the most about him was his desire to win major trophies, something that he cannot achieve at Atletico.

“I’m certain he likes his current club and he might prefer going to the Premier League. However, if Chelsea, or someone else, fails to come up with an offer, I can definitely see him moving to the other side of the city, regardless of the hatred that he would provoke among the Rojiblancos‘ fans.

Earlier this season, Tito Vilanova hailed Falcao as a “great player, but not a player for Barcelona”. That conclusion, of course, is a logical one – Falcao cannot compete with Lionel Messi for the starting spot in the centre of the Catalans’ attack. Nobody can.

But he could compete with Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain. The Frenchman and the Argentine have blown hot and cold this term after an impressive season in 2011-12 and Mourinho still believes he can improve his strikeforce. The Portuguese made promises to Higuain in the summer over his first-team appearances in 2012-13. However, the former River Plate forward still misses too many chances and is also prone to injury. Meanwhile, Benzema appears to lack a cutting edge away from home as he has a poor scoring record on the road.

Cristiano Ronaldo has also been slightly below his best at times in the current campaign, but the 27-year-old is expected to agree a new deal to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu. Should he move on, Madrid have been linked with Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Falcao as possible replacements, but they want the Colombian anyway.

Signing the striker will be far from straightforward. Madrid and Atletico agreed a non-aggression pact which means they cannot sign each other’s players. Even Mourinho admitted as much in October when he said: “Falcao is a prohibited topic.”

That agreement ultimately stopped Madrid signing Sergio Aguero from Atletico in the summer of 2010, with the Argentine forward moving to Manchester City instead. But El Kun later revealed he had wanted to join Madrid, despite once claiming he would not join any side beginning with ‘R’, thus referring to Real and former club Independiente’s biggest rivals, Racing de Avellaneda.

With Aguero, Atletico held firm and threatened to invoke extra taxes on top of the release clause of €45m, pushing the cost up to around €75m in total – much more than the player’s true worth. 

With Falcao, however, Atletico would be unable to invoke those taxes; Diego Simeone’s side share the striker’s registration with Mendes’ investment company and the Portuguese already boasts a number of clients at the Bernabeu, including Pepe, Angel Di Maria, Ronaldo and Mourinho himself. A move could therefore be quickly arranged and would cost the player’s clause of €60m or slightly more if taxes were applied. That remains an extremely attractive deal for Madrid and, having acted correctly last summer with regard to Aguero, the champions consider it is their right to bid for a player who will likely be on the move anyway come July.

Chelsea and Manchester City would be keen to do a deal, but both will have to wait until the summer because Atletico – despite their debts – will want to hold on to their star striker as they look to challenge Barca and Madrid for La Liga and, at the very least, seal a place in next season’s Champions League. Falcao also has the unique opportunity of winning the Europa League for a third successive season, having claimed the trophy with Porto and then again with his current club last term.

The Colombian once revealed in an interview as a teenager that he dreamed of playing for Madrid and his father claimed just a few months ago that his son still harboured a desire to feature for Real.

He has always dreamed of playing for Madrid since he was a kid, although I know Chelsea and Manchester City are the most interested clubs

Falcao’s father in May

The player quickly issued a statement expressing his happiness at the Calderon, but the rumours remained and his father insisted once more that he had been speaking the truth.

A possible deal evokes memories of Hugo Sanchez, the Mexican striker who starred at Atletico before moving across the derby divide in 1985 to spend several successful seasons with Real, winning four more Pichichi prizes and becoming a legend at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Sanchez still speaks fondly of his time at Atletico but the club’s fans will never forget – and they are likely to be even less forgiving to Falcao, who scored five times in the 6-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna last Sunday. “If Falcao joins Real, it will be a nightmare for him to live in Madrid,” former Atletico forward Paulo Futre said on Friday.

He is right, of course, but Falcao and his wife Lorelei Taron enjoy the Spanish city, its way of life, the language and its large Latin American community. Indeed, El Tigre has constantly claimed he is happy in Madrid, so a few rowdy fans are unlikely to stop one of football’s most ambitious players from moving across the capital if the opportunity arises this summer, napkin or no napkin.

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Low: I am not thinking about replacing Mourinho at Real Madrid

Germany national team coach Joachim Low has stated that replacing Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid is currently the last thing on his mind.

The trainer made clear that he has two more years on his contract and is intent on guiding die Mannschaft to glory at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

When asked whether there is some truth in the rumours suggesting he could replace the ‘Special One’ at los Blancos, Low was adamant that such a development is not an option at the moment.

“At some point, perhaps I may return to coaching at club level. Right now is not the time. I am incredibly proud to be national team coach, and this has given me great joy during all these years,” the 52-year-old told Sport 1.

“I do not concern myself [with the rumours]. This is just speculation, Jose Mourinho has a contract until 2016. I have a contract with the DFB until 2014,” Low is also quoted as saying by ZDF.

“The best thing I could hope for is to become world champion with Germany before I leave. I have never said I will call it quits for sure after World Cup 2014.

“I have not thought about it or talked with anyone on this topic. We must first secure qualification. Then I will hold talks with everyone involved.”

Low served as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant for two years before taking the helm of the national team after the 2006 World Cup.

Casillas is a legendary captain, says Perez

Spanish Supercup in hands of Iker Casillas

Spanish Supercup in hands of Iker Casillas

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez believes that goalkeeper Iker Casillas is one of the greatest captains to ever wear the club’s jersey.

The Spain international has appeared 472 times for the capital outfit since making his professional debut in 1999, helping them to win five La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies in the process.

At a charity event organised jointly by the BBVA, the Real Madrid foundation and Casillas, the club’s chief hailed the achievements of the 31-year-old.

“Iker Casillas is a Real Madrid and Spain legend – one of the great captains of the club’s history,” Perez told AS.

“He has shown that, as well as enjoying sporting success, he can take on board the success of the club.

“That’s why we will be supporting him, so we can crowd the Palacio de los Deportes for the [charity] match that will take place on December 23.”

Casillas said he was delighted with the backing he has received during his career, and also thanked the “club, [the] BBVA, friends and peers, which in recent years have overwhelmed me with their support.”

Extra Time: Higuain sets sights on NBA as Real Madrid face possible Copa del Rey exit

Real Madrid may be failing to hit their targets after their shock 2-1 loss to Celta Vigo on Wednesday leaves them with work to do in the Copa del Rey.

The Spanish giants’ La Liga form has also seen them fall 11 points behind Barcelona at the top of the table – not exactly swish.

However, Gonzalo Higuain’s accuracy seems pretty spot on.

The Argentina forward should perhaps try his hand at pro basketball after he managed to successfully score from nine out of ten free throws.

The striker’s impressive efforts were captured by team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa, with the pair clearly striking up a plan for the 25-year-old to branch out from football whilst he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Jose Mourinho will be hoping that his side can rebound to secure all three points in their next game as they look to bounce back from the cup loss and chase down Barca.

Furthermore, the Portuguese manager will also need Higuain to return soon and show the same kind of form on the football pitch, with strike-partner Karim Benzema suffering an ankle injury in the loss on Wednesday night.