Xavi: Barca could have beaten Madrid with 10 men

Xavi has insisted that Barcelona had every chance of beating Real Madrid on Wednesday, despite the fact that they were reduced to 10 men even before the half-time whistle due to Adriano’s dismissal.

The Catalans were beaten 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu, meaning that their arch-rivals pipped them to the Spanish Supercopa on away-goals following Barca’s 3-2 win in the first leg.

Nevertheless, the influential midfielder saw plenty of positives in his side’s defeat after a much-improved showing in the second half.

“The two errors and the red card were key in our loss. Nevertheless, we bounced back well and we could have won the Supercopa even when we were reduced to 10 men,” Xavi told reporters.

“We kept on playing football and we were true to our style of play, despite the fact that we were down a man. In the second half we created enough chances to win the trophy.”

The influential midfielder then urged his team-mates to forget about the Supercup loss and focus on La Liga again.

“We lost a title, but there are more important ones still to play for. Now we have to change our mentality and think about the Liga match this Sunday.”

Barcelona host Valencia on Sunday evening.

Cartoon of the Day: Vilanova's three stooges conspire to gift Madrid Supercopa spoils

Oh dear, oh dear. Barcelona must be kicking themselves wondering just how Supercopa success managed to slip from their grasp.

The Catalans were, at one stage in the first leg, inches away from taking a 4-1 lead but now have to face up to the reality that they have not added to their trophy collection.

Following Victor Valdes’ howler in the first leg, Barca’s luck was out once again in the return meeting as first, after just 11 minutes, Javier Mascherano’s pathetic attempt at a clearance allowed Gonzalo Higuain to race through and grab the opening goal of the game, squaring the aggregate scoreline.

And just eight minutes later there was more embarrasment for Tito Vilanova’s men as Gerard Pique’s lapse in concentration saw Cristiano Ronaldo’s extravagent flick come off before he steadied himself and fired past Valdes to put Real two up on the night.

Surely that was that in terms of leaving Barca players with egg on their faces? Well it wasn’t.

Step forward Adriano who completes the line-up of the three Barca stooges as he was red carded for pulling back Ronaldo just before the half hour mark – and not even Lionel Messi, despite his best efforts having pulled a goal back, could stop Mourinho getting his hands on more silverware…

Vilanova’s three stooges conspire to gift Madrid Supercopa spoils

Cristiano Ronaldo: Barcelona win is a confidence boost

Cristiano ronaldo celebrates the winning of spanish supercup

Cristiano ronaldo celebrates the winning of spanish supercup

Cristiano Ronaldo has voiced his delight with Real Madrid’s 2-1 home win over Barcelona in the second leg of their Spanish Supercopa encounter, and stressed that winning their first title of the season at the expense of their arch-rivals is a real confidence boost.

Los Blancos were beaten 3-2 in the first leg, but early goals from Gonzalo Higuain and the Portuguese winger put the Santiago Bernabeu side 4-3 up on aggregate.

Lionel Messi then pegged one back from a free kick, but it was not enough for Barca as Madrid came out victorious on the away-goals rule.

“We started well and we scored two quick goals that gave us confidence,” he was quoted as saying on the club’s official website.

“We played well and created many chances. In the second half we slowed the tempo because we were tired, but we deserved to win.

“We won an important trophy. It gives us confidence and we have to celebrate it. We cannot slip up in La Liga because we know that Barcelona are very strong.”

Full-back Alvaro Arbeloa was equally pleased with Madrid’s display and urged his team-mates to show a similar attitude in La Liga.

“I’m very happy, we played an amazing match. We should have won by more because we created many chances; the important thing was to win the match and give our fans something to cheer about, which they deserved.

“This is the attitude everyone wants and we are the first to know it, not just against Barcelona, but every week in the Liga.”

Madrid lock horns with Granada on Sunday.

European giants descend on Monaco for Champions League draw

Following the conclusion of the Champions League play-offs on Wednesday evening, all 32 teams that will take part in the group stage of European club football’s elite competition are now known, and they will be desperate to find out who they will be pitted against during Thursday evening’s draw in Monaco.

The draw, which is scheduled to start at 17:45CET, will feature an impressive 12 previous winners of the competition, as well as three teams making their debut at the highest level.

All of the top seeded teams except Arsenal have lifted the trophy on at least one occasion, and Manchester United are even making a record 18th appearance in the 21st edition of the Champions League. Meanwhile, Montpellier, Nordsjaelland and Malaga are all set to make their bow in the tournament.

Their status as rookies does not mean that these teams go into the competition without ambition, though, as was illustrated by Boquerones winger Joaquin’s words.

“As for the group stage draw, we know that all rivals will be tough but we have qualified and are determined to enjoy the competition and go as far as we can,” the Spaniard remarked.

Of the 32 teams that featured in last year’s edition of the competition, 20 have once again managed to reach the group stages this term.

Goal.com will bring you all the coverage you need as we find out how the group stages in Europe’s elite club competition will look between now and December.

Click here to follow all the coverage of the draw, which will take place from 17:00BST on Thursday.

Supercopa success can spark Real Madrid's season – and it's all thanks to Mourinho's message

COMMENT
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Jose Mourinho asked for a reaction – and he got one. Real Madrid had endured a miserable start to the season, with two defeats and a draw in their opening three games. But after Wednesday night’s Spanish Supercopa success, that has all been forgotten now.

So poor in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Getafe, Madrid found triumph through adversity with a first title of the campaign on Wednesday – and it was all down to Mourinho’s motivational might. The Portuguese coach has often sent out assistant Aitor Karanka to his post-match press conferences following difficult defeats, but faced up to the media on Sunday – and sent a clear message to his players.

The 49-year-old publicly questioned his squad’s defensive discipline, technique, will to win and hunger following a season in which they gave everything to wrestle La Liga from Barcelona and revealed he had handed his players a dressing down after they had lost to their cross-city rivals at the weekend. Then, on Tuesday, he hoped to discover – he said – whether his charges were suffering a ‘psychological’ problem or merely a momentary malaise.

His opposite number, Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova, prefers to work away from the media spotlight, so the pre-match press patter had all been about Mourinho. The coach set a public challenge to his players and, with their pride pricked and professionalism probed, Madrid responded on the football field last night.

Poker face | Mourinho greets Vilanova before the Supercopa second leg on Wednesday

As Mourinho had added on Tuesday, the Spanish Supercopa remained wide open after the first match at Camp Nou. It shouldn’t have been, as Victor Valdes made a meal of an Adriano pass-back to allow Angel Di Maria a late goal and hand Madrid a lifeline last Thursday, in a game which finished 3-2 to Barcelona but felt almost like a loss for the Catalan club given the nature of the game’s frenzied finale.

Buoyed by that tonic and fired up by their coach’s criticism, Madrid began Wednesday’s second leg with an incredible intensity which forced their fiercest rivals into further errors. Valdes made one early save to deny Gonzalo Higuain but could do nothing to prevent the Argentine from opening the scoring after he was left one-on-one with the striker following Javier Mascherano’s awful attempt to clear Pepe’s long, looping ball.

That fired up the fans and there was another error 10 minutes later, when Gerard Pique made a mess of another pass from deep – this time from Sami Khedira – and allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to back-heel the ball over his head. The Portuguese then took time to control in the area and, with little in the way of support, smashed home a shot via Valdes’ legs. The goalkeeper should have done better, and so should his defence. Barca were on the rack – and there was worse to come for the Catalans.

After Valdes had done well to save from Higuain and Pepe had seen a goal disallowed for a foul, Adriano was shown a straight red card for grappling last-man Cristiano to the floor. With 27 minutes gone, Barca were two goals down and a man down, too.

Madrid, meanwhile, remained rampant. Khedira almost made it 3-0 a minute later and Higuain missed another fantastic opportunity as Mourinho’s men threatened to put the game well and truly out of reach.

Instead, however, it was Barca who struck next as Messi hit a rare free-kick goal, curling an unstoppable left-footed effort past Iker Casillas to strike a psychological blow just before the interval. It was 4-4 on aggregate now and one more goal would see Barca back on top.

And they came desperately close to it. Casillas produced a vital intervention to deny Pedro with his feet after the winger had showed extraordinary control to bring down a ball in the area and the Madrid keeper made a second save from a tight angle to thwart the same player moments later.

Higuain should have made it 3-1 at the other end but hit the post after beating Valdes and Messi came close to winning it as he curled a last-minute effort just the wrong side of the upright.

Madrid should have been out of sight by then and almost paid for their profligacy. Higuain was the principal culprit as he missed several superb chances, but the Argentine’s opener set his side on their way to a first Clasico win at the Santiago Bernabeu since 2008 and a first at home under Mourinho.

The Portuguese recently claimed he would happily lose the Supercopa and win La Liga, but given the circumstances of his side’s season start, the 49-year-old will have been eager to claim this trophy. Mourinho’s men stuck a psychological blow with Wednesday’s win, banished their Bernabeu blues versus Barca and made it a Spanish set under their coach, who has now claimed Supercopa, Liga and Copa del Rey titles at Real Madrid.

So while last night’s title may have been the least important, belief is back and this victory can now act as a catalyst for Madrid’s season – all thanks to Mourinho’s message. Barcelona had better beware.

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