Courtois: We’re having a huge season

Softly spoken and courteous, mannerisms somehow at odds with his imposing 6’5 frame, any shyness Thibaut Courtois displays in interview disappears out on the pitch. Combining steely nerves, safe hands and remarkable reflexes, the 21-year-old is currently rated one of the finest custodians around and is thriving at the very top of the European game.

On loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid for the past three seasons, the Belgian shotstopper is one of the rocks on which coach Diego Simeone’s historic Rojiblanco success story has been built. And having helped Atleti to the top of La Liga and reach the UEFA Champions League semis for the first time in 40 years, Courtois has also played his part in Belgium’s imminent return to the FIFA World Cup™ stage after a 12-year absence.

Atletico ready for familiar foe Mourinho

Atletico Madrid may be in uncharted territory as they prepare for their first UEFA Champions League semi-final in 40 years, but they will meet a familiar face in Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho when the Londoners travel to the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Mourinho won his first eight meetings against Atletico in a three-year spell in charge of Real Madrid. Then last May Los Rojiblancos exacted revenge by beating Real for the first time in 14 years in the Portuguese’s last competitive game in charge of Los Blancos to win the Copa del Rey last May.

All eyes on Madrid this week

Madrid will be the epicentre of European football for two days this week as the Spanish capital’s two biggest clubs, Atletico and Real, host Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively in the first legs of this season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

While it is no surprise to see holders Bayern reach the last four along with nine-time winners Real and Chelsea, the competition’s last English victors, few people expected Atletico to come this far, 40 years on from their only appearance in the final.

First semi-final, Tuesday 22 April
Atletico Madrid-Chelsea, Vicente Calderon, Madrid, 20:45

Martino hails Barça resolve

Gerardo Martino praised the attitude of his players after they came from behind to beat Athletic Club 2-1 to end a miserable run of results which had ramped up the pressure at the Nou Camp.

With huge gaps in the stands suggesting the locals had already made up their minds after three straight defeats, Barça lacked their usual cutting edge and fell behind to Aritz Aduriz’s 50th-minute strike, but turned it around with two goals in three minutes from Pedro and Lionel Messi with a quarter of an hour to go.

Barça made to work for win, Sevilla impress

Two goals in three minutes saw Barcelona come from behind to end a run of three straight defeats, but a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao could only paper over so many cracks at the Nou Camp. A crowd of barely more than 30,000 suggested the locals had already made their mind up about the under-pressure Gerardo Martino, and his players did not do much to make his case as they struggled to muster their usual cutting edge until they had fallen behind.

Neymar: I won’t miss World Cup

Brazilian football star Neymar said Friday he would be well enough to play in the World Cup in June despite a foot injury that could force him to miss the rest of the club season. The 22-year-old Barcelona forward injured his left foot Wednesday during a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in Spain’s Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona said Thursday he would be on the sideline for four weeks and could miss the rest of the club season. With less than two months to go, Neymar however promised to be healthy on time to play in the World Cup.

Pinto To Jump Sinking Ship That Is Barcelona

Jose-Manuel-PintoJosé Manuel Pinto has told his teammates this will be his last season with Barcelona, according to the newspaper Sport. The keeper, who signed in the winter of 2007-08, is out of contract at the end of the season and has decided not to renew.

Pinto has not impressed when filling in for the injured Victor Valdes and his latest blunder came on Wednesday night in the Copa del Rey final. He should have been able to keep out Angel Di Maria’s low strike early on, which gave Real Madrid the lead against Barcelona and then Gareth Bale’s shot went through his leg to give Madrid the cup.

Bale: I’ve never played in an atmosphere like that

Gareth Bale reacts to his game-winning goal in his first Copa del Rey final.

Martino: Plenty of life still in Barcelona

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday.

The Welshman ran half the length of the field to score the winner five minutes from time and subject Barcelona a third consecutive defeat in all competitions which leaves them on the verge of failing to win a major trophy for the first time in six years.

“When you look at the age of the players in this team it is evident that Barcelona has a long road still to run and with a lot better results than this year,” said Martino.

Bale Brilliance Leads Real Madrid Over Barca

iker-copaReal Madrid won the Copa del Rey for the 19th time after a brilliant Gareth Bale’s 85th-minute goal won the day for Carlo Ancelotti’s side against Barcelona at Mestalla.

Madrid had gone in front after just ten minutes when Angel Di Maria raced onto Karim Benzema’s through ball and his low shot went through Barca goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto. Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has always been under appreciated, but we are now seeing his value not that he is injured. If Barca cannot sign a new goalkeeper during the summer transfer window, they will not be winning anything next season with Pinto in goal.