Transfer windows are always silly season but they pale in comparison to the sort of collective psychosis and paranoia engendered by El Clasico.
The hysteria before tomorrow's Copa De Rey semi-final first leg has gems like if Mourinho plays Pepe in the midfield then Real has a winning record in the Clasicos. Barca counters with Puyol as being a lucky charm with the Catalan defender participating in five of their winning encounters and the only time they lost he was out with an injury. The big question is whether Guardiola is going to shake hands with Jose Mourinho? If Mourinho wears white with rhinestones then the handshake is on, if he wears a black trenchcoat and devil's mask then it is eternal bitterness and rancour between the two men.
Barca are now jumping on the referees. Yesterday, Xavi got into the act, accusing the referees of harming them with adverse calls. Iniesta and Valdes also climbed on the blame the referees bandwagon. A blatant hand ball by Raul Rodriguez ignored by the referee in the Espanyol derby which could have resulted in a Barca penalty has triggered outrage. More dismay ensued as Iniesta was booked for diving in the Real Betis match while the midfielder felt he had been fouled.
All sorts of fouls that have not been called has left Barca questioning this season's refereeing. Last year it was good, this year they are being victimized. Accordingly, a complaint has been lodged with the Liga's technical committee.
All of this is perfectly timed just before El Clasico at the Bernabeu tomorrow. We all know what happened in the first encounter last season when all hell broke loose with Real going all industrial and Barca diving like narcoleptics.
Guardiola, the consummate diplomat refused to be drawn into the refereeing controversy (its amazing how Barca manages to get players to shill for them) saying in his four years he had never made it an issue. In fact, he had no idea who would be officiating the match.
Jose Manuel Pinto is starting as goalie for the Blaugrana. Pinto is famous as the goalie who simulated a referee's whistle in a Champions League match in 2010. The Merengues may not have the services of Angel Di Maria who was knocked out in yesterday's training session.