With just over two months to go before Real Madrid face their arch-enemies Barcelona in La Primera, Jose Mourinho has decided it is already time to try and start the mind games with Pep Guardiola.
The Portuguese coach is rarely one to keep his feelings to himself and in a press conference this morning he had a sly dig at the defending Primera champions by declaring that teams are ‘gifting’ games to them.
The comments are aimed mainly at Sporting Gijon, who, due to the busy calendar this week, decided to rest some of their first-team players for the trip to the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening.
Whilst the side that Manuel Preciado put out was far from disgraced – losing by just a single second-half goal – Mourinho used a press conference today to state that
“Opponents are playing [against Barcelona] with their second teams because they think they cannot win. If this continues to happen, then it will be more difficult for us”.
Mourinho’s comments might well hold grains of truth they would perhaps be more meaningful had Barcelona waltzed past Sporting and not struggled to break them down for much of the ninety minutes.
Asked at a press conference later in the day about the comments by his opposite number at Madrid, Pep Guardiola refused to be drawn into any mind games and stated his belief that all players in the top flight deserve respect.
“What games have been gifted to us? I have nothing to say to Mourinho. We played against Sporting Gijon, against a team, not against substitutes or starters. All the players in La Primera deserve respect, the squads are big and anyone is able to play because they are all capable.”
Perhaps some of Mourinho’s ire comes from the fact that his Madrid team have had to work much harder for victories this season than was expected. Even with a star-studded line-up and a start to the campaign that looked relatively easy on paper, Mourinho’s men have managed just six goals between them and have struggled to get the fans in the Bernabeu on their feet.
Whatever the case, there is little doubt that the comments by the Madrid boss are designed to grab the attention more of Guardiola and Barcelona than of Preciado and Sporting Gijon.
The former Chelsea manager is a master when it comes to manipulating the media and with more probing comments likely to arrive in the future, it will be interesting to see whether Guardiola will hold his tongue for much longer.