Barca Trip To Madrid ‘Just A Game’ – Valverde

ERNESTO VALVERD

Barcelona visit Atletico Madrid in their first trip to the Spanish capital on Saturday since a Catalan independence referendum marred by violence, but Barca coach Ernesto Valverde attempted to quash talk of political tension by insisting it is just “a game of football.”

In their last outing, Barca played behind closed doors as the October 1 referendum, deemed illegal by the Spanish government, took place amid chaotic scenes as police seized ballot papers and clashed with voters leaving 92 injured, among nearly 900 who sought medical attention.

That match was described by Barca captain Andres Iniesta this week as one of the “worst moments” in his career, whilst Gerard Pique, an outspoken defender of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, broke down in tears when addressing reporters after the match.

However, Valverde hopes the biggest game of the La Liga season so far is a chance for fans to escape the political tension sweeping Spain rather than indulging in it.

“We are going to kid ourselves. It is a game between two teams who want to fight for La Liga and will be an intimidating atmosphere, but it is a game of football,” Valverde said on Friday.

“Football is for people to enjoy themselves. To support their team, suffer with their team and enjoy it more than anything else.”

Only 250 tickets have been made available to away fans at Atletico’s new 68,000 capacity Wanda Metropolitano.

However, many Atletico fans have taken to social media to encourage supporters not to politicise the match by waving Spanish flags by using the hashtag “our flag is red and white” on Twitter.

– Pique ‘admirable’ –

Pique was jeered when playing for Spain in Alicante last week, but he received support for his willingness to speak out from Atletico defender Filipe Luis.

“I am a fan of Pique even if at times I don’t agree with what he says,” the Brazilian told El Mundo.

“He puts himself out there, he doesn’t hide behind his fame to not say what he thinks.

“It is admirable and I wish more footballers were like him.”

Despite a series of distractions, including the loss of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and calls for Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign on top of the Catalonia crisis, Barca have started La Liga with a perfect record after seven games.

“They have made an enormous effort in the absence of Neymar to continue being a competitive team,” said Atletico coach Diego Simeone, whose side are six points behind Barca in fourth.

“They are in the generation of Pique, (Sergio) Busquets, (Lionel) Messi, (Luis) Suarez and what they transmit to the rest allows them to remain competitive. That is what they have shown in their start to the season.”

That spectacular form has been thanks to Messi’s 14 goals in 11 appearances for Barca this season.

And the five-time World Player of the Year also rescued Argentina’s floundering World Cup qualifying campaign with a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador on Tuesday to ensure their place in Russia next year.

However, Barca are often vulnerable immediately after an international break with the likes of Messi and Suarez only returning to training in Barcelona on Friday.

“Many of them have come from playing decisive games and the level of tension accumulated over the break is important,” added Valverde.

“Atletico have also had players away and if is was a less attractive match it might worry me more.

“We are aware of how difficult it will be and the magnitude of the game helps to remain concentrated.”

Iniesta is, though, expected to be fit after missing Spain’s final World Cup qualifiers with a hamstring strain.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Espanyol v Levante (1900)

Saturday

Athletic Bilbao v Sevilla (1100), Getafe v Real Madrid (1415), Alaves v Real Sociedad (1630), Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (1845)

Sunday

Eibar v Deportivo la Coruna (1000), Girona v Villarreal (1415), Malaga v Leganes (1630), Real Betis v Valencia (1845)

Monday

Las Palmas v Celta Vigo (1900)

AFP

Spain Eurofighter Crashes After National Day Parade, Pilot Dead


Spanish Eurofighter planes fly during the Spanish National Day military parade in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

A Spanish military plane crashed on Thursday after taking part in a display in Madrid for Spain’s national day, the defence ministry said.

“I can confirm a plane has crashed,” a ministry spokeswoman said, with local media reporting that a Eurofighter jet went down near a military base at Albacete, 300 kilometres (180 miles) southeast of the capital.

The fate of the pilot and the cause of the crash were not immediately known and it was not clear if there were any other casualties.

Read Also: Spain Marks National Day With Show Of Unity In Catalan Crisis

A Eurofighter last crashed in Spain in June 2014, killing the plane’s pilot when it ploughed into grass short of the runway at the Moron air force base near Seville.

Spain’s national day marks the date that Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas in 1492.

It falls this year in the middle of Spain’s biggest political crisis in a decade as Catalonia’s separatist leader is threatening to split the region from the rest of the country.

AFP

Madrid Warns Catalan Leader Not To Make ‘Illegal’ Declaration

Catalan regional government President Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. PAU BARRENA / AFP

Spain’s government on Tuesday warned Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont is warned by the government “not to do anything irreversible” ahead of a speech in Barcelona in which the separatist leader could declare independence from Spain.

“We call on Puigdemont not to do anything irreversible, not to pursue a path of no return and not to make any unilateral independence declaration, which would lead to illegality,” government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters.

AFP

Catalan Police Chief Probed For Alleged ‘Sedition’

Protestors hold Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence in Catalonia called by the xenophobic far-right party ‘Platform for Catalonia’ (PXC) in front of the Spanish National Police headquarters in Barcelona, on September 30, 2017. PAU BARRENA / AFP

A Spanish judge has placed Catalonia’s regional police chief under investigation for alleged sedition, a court spokesman said Wednesday, after the force was accused of failing to rein in pro-independence protesters.

The National Court in Madrid summoned Josep Luis Trapero and three other suspects to a hearing on Friday, said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.

The accusations refer to unrest in Barcelona on September 20 and 21 after national security forces raided regional government offices in a crackdown against the independence drive.

That police action was met with furious protests and the Catalan regional police were accused of failing to intervene.

Tensions between Catalonia and the national government have plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in decades.

The spokesman said the four suspects were accused of “a crime of sedition… in relation to the gatherings and demonstrations carried out to forcibly prevent the authorities and their officers from carrying out their duties.”

The crime of sedition is punishable by up to 15 years in prison if committed by a member of the authorities, under Spain’s penal code.

The judge leading the judicial investigation, Carmen Lamela, also summoned the leaders of two prominent Catalan pro-independence civil groups: Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural and Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

Those two groups were involved in the September demonstrations. Protesters damaged Civil Guard police vehicles and stopped officers from leaving the building they were searching.

The fourth suspect placed under investigation was another senior Catalan police official, Teresa Laplana.

The region’s leaders defied Madrid by holding a banned referendum on independence on Sunday.

National security forces beat unarmed voters as officers shut down some polling stations.

AFP

Isco Stars In Politicised Madrid Win

 

Real Madrid’s midfielder Isco celebrates his second goal during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF vs RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on October 1, 2017.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Isco scored twice as Real Madrid reduced the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to seven points courtesy of a 2-0 win over Espanyol on a day where football was dragged into violent political clashes in Catalonia.

Barca had earlier extended their perfect start in La Liga to seven games in extraordinary circumstances as they beat Las Palmas 3-0 behind closed doors at the 99,000 capacity Camp Nou following the police crackdown over an independence vote deemed illegal by the Spanish government.

At least 91 people were injured as Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into activist-held polling stations.

Following La Liga’s refusal to abandon the match, Barca decided to play behind closed doors as a means of protest.

Outspoken Barca defender Gerard Pique broke down in tears as he described the day as “the worst professional experience I have had in my life.”

The political tension also bubbled over at the Santiago Bernabeu where Real fans waved Spanish flags and sang ‘Viva Espana’ (long live Spain).

Real Madrid’s midfielder Isco 
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

On the field, there was far less conflict as Real eased to an 11th consecutive win over Barcelona-based Espanyol for their first home league win of the season.

Isco was denied the opening goal inside 30 seconds by Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

But the Spanish international made no mistake when he prodded home Cristiano Ronaldo’s pass for the opener on 30 minutes.

Ronaldo volleyed over and then fired straight at Lopez when clean through.

However, Espanyol had a slew of chances themselves to level.

Gerard Moreno hit the post just before the break, whilst Keylor Navas denied Marc Navarro and Nacho produced a brilliant goal line clearance to prevent Leo Baptistao a tap in.

Espanyol’s profligacy was finally punished 19 minutes from time when Isco curled home his second of the evening at the end of a rapid counter-attack.

Victory lifts Madrid up to fifth behind Barca, Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid.

Valencia’s great start under Marcelino Garcia Toral’s tutelage continued with a thrilling 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Simeone Zaza and Dani Parejo’s penalty gave the hosts a 2-0 half-time lead.

Aritz Aduriz reduced the arrears for Athletic, who have now gone six games without a win.

Rodrigo restored Valencia’s two-goal cushion before Raul Garcia’s late consolation.

The game of the day was undoubtedly at Anoeta where Real Sociedad and Real Betis drew 4-4.

Three times Betis led thanks to goals from Antonio Sanabria, Zoudhair Feddal, Joaquin and Sergio Leon.

But Sociedad kept roaring back as Diego Llorente’s header four minutes from time salvaged a point after earlier strikes from Willian Jose, Mikel Oyarzabal and Xabi Prieto.

Villarreal get off to a winning start under new coach Javi Calleja as Cedric Bakambu hit a hat-trick to see off Eibar 3-0.

AFP

Catalan Official Accuses EU Of Tacitly Backing Madrid

Catalan Socialist Party PSC spokesman Miguel Iceta (L) protests from his seat
during a session at the Catalan parliament to debate and vote a cessation law on an independence, in Barcelona, on September 7, 2017. Catalonia’s government denounced a “covert state of siege” imposed by the central government in Madrid, after a prosecutor said the region’s leaders would face charges over a planned independence referendum.PAU BARRENA / AFP

The European Union is tacitly backing the Spanish government’s “repressive actions” to prevent the Catalan region from holding a weekend independence referendum, a leading Catalan official charged Thursday.

The official, Raul Romeva, urged the 28-nation EU to end its silence and defend its founding treaty guaranteeing democratic norms, which he alleged Madrid is now violating.

“Failing to rise its voice, failing even to call for a political dialogue as it seems to be the case so far is not neutral,” Romeva told a press conference in Brussels.

“This is perceived by the Spanish state as an endorsement of the repressive actions” it is carrying out, said Romeva, who handles foreign affairs for the regional government.

The Catalan government’s plans to hold an independence vote on Sunday in defiance of court orders ruling it illegal have triggered large protests in Barcelona and a major crackdown from Madrid.

However, EU officials have stayed doggedly tight-lipped even as diplomats privately voice serious concern at a situation some regard as a challenge to fundamental European values.

Officials from the European Commission, the EU executive, have repeatedly fended off questions on the Catalan crisis with variations on the same response: “The commission respects Spain’s constitutional order and legal framework.”

But Romeva called on the European Commission and the European Parliament to “stand for values and principles enshrined” in the founding treaties.

“Civil rights are being violated as I speak and the quality of democracy in Spain is eroding day after day,” he said.

Analysts have said that an independent Catalonia would trigger a crisis the EU would find hard to manage as it would energise separatist movements in other European countries.

AFP

Barca Move Seven Points Clear of Madrid

Barcelona’s midfielder from Brazil Paulinho (C) celebrates a goal with Barcelona’s midfielder from Spain Sergi Roberto (L) and Barcelona’s midfielder from Spain Sergio Busquets during the Spanish league football match Getafe CF vs FC Barcelona at the Col. Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe on September 16, 2017. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Barcelona moved seven points clear of Real Madrid after continuing their 100 percent record in with a 2-1 win at Getafe.

Barca were however made to struggle and they had to come from behind.

But they could be without record signing Ousmane Dembele for a number of weeks after the French winger hobbled off in the first half with a hamstring injury.

“Fortunately, it was an important test for us. We managed to turn the game around and that power of reaction the team had means a lot,” said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde.

Paulinho’s 40 million-euro signing from Guangzhou Evergrande was just one of a number of much-criticised moves by the Barca board following the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

But the Brazilian international showed his worth by smashing home Lionel Messi’s through ball to score the winner.

“I’m very happy to score the goal. It was the winner which was the most important thing,” Paulinho told Barca TV.

“It was a difficult game because Getafe have players with quality and we conceded the first goal but we were calm, had patience and went looking for the result.”

Barca had barely replaced Dembele with Gerard Deulofeu before they fell behind six minutes before half-time.

Sergi Roberto’s headed clearance fell invitingly for Gaku Shibasaki, who made his name with two goals against Real Madrid in last year’s Club World Cup final for Kashima Antlers, to thunder an unstoppable dipping volley beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Valverde made another change at the start of the second period as Denis Suarez replaced Iniesta.

And it was the substitute who inspired Barca’s revival as he collected Roberto’s cut-back from the right wing before bending the ball high past Vicente Guaita into the top corner.

Paulinho completed the comeback when he burst onto Messi’s through ball and smashed across the despairing Guaita into the far corner.

AFP

Hundreds Celebrate Monsoon Holi In Madrid

Hundreds of people gathered on Saturday to celebrate the Hindu festival of the ‘Monsoon Holi’ in Madrid.

Cheerful revellers threw for hours colour powder and sprayed water ending up with multicolour attires and enjoyed dancing, jumping and cheering with the Indian culture concerts that the festival included.

The Monsoon Holi festival coincided with the local parties of San Cayetano and took place at Madrid’s ethical neighbourhood of Lavapies, in the centre of the Spanish capital.

During the fifth month of the Hindu calendar ‘Sawan’, or monsoon, devotees offer prayers to the god of destruction seeking Lord Shiva’s blessings for peace and prosperity

Perez Tags Ronaldo Symbol Of Best Club In Football History

Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, Cristiano RonaldoReal Madrid President, Florentino Perez, has described Cristiano Ronaldo as the symbol of the best club in the history of football.

Perez says that the 31-year-old Portuguese is now a legend of the club, having scored 371 goals in 360 games to emerge Real’s all-time top scorer.

He made the remarks on Monday at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where Ronaldo extended his contract with Madrid for another five years.

“You are now the big icon of the club, the symbol of the best club in the history of football.

“You have become the successor of those mythical giants and you’re defining an era.

“There will be a before and after of Cristiano Ronaldo (and) with Real Madrid, you have conquered everything.

“You’re already a Real Madrid legend because you have become the top scorer in the club’s history,” he said.

Perez hopes Ronaldo would win the Ballon d’Or as he highlighted some of the achievements and titles that made the player unique.

“After your success of last season with Real Madrid and the national team, it is only fair that you will soon have your fourth Ballon d’Or.

“You don’t get tired of winning and that is why Real Madrid want you to continue here forever,” he added.

Ronaldo Says Real Madrid Contract Is ‘Dream Come True’

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real MadridCristiano Ronaldo says he desires to stay with Real Madrid for many more years, describing the club as a dream come true for him.

Ronaldo said this on Monday when he sealed a new five-year deal with the club at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

“I want to thank the president, Real Madrid, the city, my teammates and all the people who helped me get to this point.

“It is a very special day for me, a very important day for my relationship with Real Madrid.

“This club is in my heart. It is a unique moment in my life, renewing for five more years.

“It is not the last contract because I want to stay here many more years,” happy Ronaldo told the club’s website.

The Portuguese added that he would keep doing his best for “This shirt and the best club in the world.

“I’ll give it my best, score goals and win trophies. I am very happy because it is a dream come true for me.”

Ronaldo is Real’s all-time top scorer with 371 goals in 360 games.

He is reported to be in line for an increase on his current salary which is estimated to be 21 million euros, making him the highest-paid player at the club.

Chelsea Sign Falcao On Loan From Monaco

FalcaoPremier League champions, Chelsea Football Club, on Friday announced that they have agreed terms with Monaco for the season-long loan of Radamel Falcao.

The Colombian international will link up with Jose Mourinho’s squad for the 2015/16 campaign.

Falcao told chelseafc.com; “I am very happy to be joining Chelsea and can’t wait to start training and help with our aim of retaining the league title and being successful in Europe.”

The 29-year-old started his career as a teenager in his homeland before joining Argentinian giants River Plate in 2001 and going on to build a reputation as one of Europe’s most feared strikers.

Eight years later, Falcao arrived in Europe at Porto, where he made his Champions League debut against Chelsea.

He lifted successive Europa League titles, first with Porto and the second after joining Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011.

The striker left Madrid for Monaco in the summer of 2013, enjoying an impressive first half of the campaign before injury ruled him out of the rest of the season and the following summer’s World Cup. He scored a hat-trick against the Blues in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup.

After two goals in three games at the beginning of last season, he joined Manchester United on loan, scoring four goals in 29 games to help Louis van Gaal’s side back into the Champions League.

Falcao is now reunited with former Atletico team-mates; Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa, as well as international colleague, Juan Cuadrado.

Fabregas frustrated over less playing time

High profile Spanish La Liga player and Barcelona midfielder has expressed his unhappiness and frustration over not having enough time on the field of play.

Fabregas becomes the second high profile Spanish La Liga player to complain after Real Madrid Striker Cristiano Ronaldo who felt sad for professional reasons.

In last Sunday’s La Liga game against Valencia which the Spanish giants won by stroke of luck the Spanish midfielder was substituted only for 63 minutes.

Fabregas was quoted saying “There’s no such thing as a great substitute in the world of football. I couldn’t tell you what makes a great substitute. I always wish my teammates well and put a happy face on.”

“If I have to take my unhappy face home, then so be it, but I would never let my teammates or manager see it,” he added.

As it stands now, Cesc Fabrgas who left the Gunners to ply his trade with his youth club Barcelona is contending seriously for a starting shirt with the likes Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and new recruit Alex Song that are tagged as the game’s biggest stalwarts in the centre of the park.

“Everybody likes to play every minute of the season. I’ve always said that I play for the best team in the world, but I came here to compete, to learn and enjoy, not sitting wracking my brains.” Fabregas said.

“The manager knows what I can offer. But across the three positions that I can play, I am competing with the three best players in the world. I’m delighted to be a part of this team but when a coach tells me I have to go, I’ll go,” he added.

“But I will not make it easy for him to do so, by any means. I will keep going, looking forward to the time that things change. I came here to see out my career,” he concluded.