The Lead

I’m not even going to sugar-coat this with objective distance: if Real Madrid sack Jose Mourinho for lagging behind Barcelona by 11 points at this point in the season, it will be the single most stupid thing the club will have ever done, at least in the modern era. Iker Casillas got it right:

“I am philosophical about [Real Madrid's 11 point gap],” Casillas said. “Just a few months ago, the whistles were applause and praise when we won the league. People in football have short memories. A few months ago we were La Liga champions, with a record number of goals and points. The good moments must be remembered, and the continuity of this project. Not long ago, the team was renewed. A very young team grew together and won the Copa del Rey (in 2011). We have won the league, the Supercopa too. Now we do not want to stop, we must go further.”

Real Madrid of course are not strangers to doing stupid things (see the Galacticos era). But the utter misunderstanding of just what Mourinho has been able to achieve in Spain against Barcelona, even with his impressive squad, grates in the extreme. First, unlike Barcelona’s famed youth academy, Real Madrid Castilla is in clear conflict with the vision of the first team, which speaks to a lack of over-arching club philosophy.

Not that Real Madrid have needed anything so high-minded in the past. But Mourinho’s side is being tasked with defeating one of the most tactically-streamlined clubs in the world that also happens to employ some the most talented players in the world. Two of the three Ballon D’Or finalists are Barca players, as were 8 of the 23-man shortlist.

In that context, winning the league last year was a major managerial triumph. As for his club’s form this season, the team arguably has done everything right tactically: the club’s average shot for/against ratio is 20/9. Barcelona’s by contrast is 14/10 (I haven’t yet calculated TSR which I’d prefer to do counting up totals, not averages). None of that matters as far as points go, but it does indicate that Casillas might be onto something when he blames “referees, injuries or bad luck” for the gap. There’s certainly enough evidence there on both sides to indicate the race could tighten significantly over the next 2/3rds of the season. And even if it doesn’t and Real Madrid lose out, what does sacking Mourinho do? It certainly doesn’t make Real Madrid better than Barcelona, and chances are for the time being, no one person can.

But who knows if RM president Florentino Perez knows any of that? He should though, if he professes to care about the club he leads.


“It’s a travesty.”-John Herdman on Christine Sinclair’s snub for FIFA women player of the year.


Two Roma fans given 5-year stadium bans after attacking Spurs supporters.

A former Olympic-gold medalist says he can bring Torres back to his old form in two weeks.

Ex-England international Gareth Southgate says it’s some fans and not footballers that won’t accept a gay player.

United’s Vidic could be back in the line-up as early as next week.

Arsenal wants players to accept reduced wages if the club fails to qualify for Champions League.


Inter now ready to sell Sneijder after contract stalemate.

Andrea Pirlo talks about his future at Juventus and the Ballon d’Or.

Preview to this weekend’s Seria A.

La Liga

UEFA to sanction Malaga for unpaid players’ salaries.

Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis speaks about his club and teammates.

Tim Stannard with a preview to this weekend’s action.


Clash of Titans: Bayern Muenich face Borussia Dortmund this weekend.

Marcel Schmelzer wants to stay in Dortmund.

Why Gerry Wittmann thinks Bayern are currently the best football team.


Chris Wondolowski finally wins MLS MVP award.

Bit and Bobs

Celtic not the only Scottish team to have beat Barcelona. Dundee United have an even better record against the Spanish side.

In case you missed it, here are FIFA’s host city posters for Brazil 2014.

“People have got it all wrong. I wasn’t doing a monkey chant. I was doing a chicken dance.” -Sunderland fan accused of racism gives his side of the story.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.