Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola yesterday launched an unexpected verbal attack at Portuguese tactician and Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho.
The Santiago Bernabeu is the venue for tonight's epic first leg Champions League clash that will go some way to deciding which of the two biggest sides in Spain walk out at Wembley on May 28th, to compete for the biggest prize in club football.
When you throw in the fact the game is yet another installment of a 'Clásico' series that has seen Barcelona dominate in La Liga but Madrid snatch the Copa del Rey, it is no surprise that tensions are high and competition fierce.
Never one to bore the waiting press, Mourinho was in no mood to calm the atmosphere when he spoke at Madrid's press conference on Tuesday. In typical baiting fashion, the Real manager mocked his Barcelona counterpart, highlighting comments made by Pep Guardiola in light of the disallowed goal scored by Pedro in last week's Copa del Rey final.
After Pep had supposedly criticised the decision, despite replays showing the linesman had made the correct call, Mourinho declared that Guardiola had now created a new type of football manager. He explained that there were a few managers in the game who refused to talk about referees at all but the vast majority, of which he was happy to cite himself, did speak out about referees, if they made a big mistake. He continued,
"And with Pep's statements we've come to a third group, which is a one-person group, who criticises good decisions made by the referee. I've never seen this before."
Unable to ignore the jibes and focus on the game in hand, Guardiola surprised the waiting media by rising to the bait and retaliating in astonishing fashion.
Despite saying that he was not willing to compete with this verbal game that Mourinho plays off the pitch, Pep then revealed in his press conference,
"In this room, he's the f****** chief, the f****** man, the person who knows everything about the world and I don't want to compete with him at all."
He pointed out that the Madrid tactician wins off the pitch all the time but,
"On the pitch, we'll see what happens."
However, do not read too much into the importance of a childish spat in front of the cameras. One sensible thing Guardiola was able to say on Tuesday evening was that, whatever is said before the game becomes irrelevant as soon as the first whistle is blown.
"Do you think the players will run more because I've spoken to Jose through the cameras? It's the Champions League semi-finals. The players won't be motivated by this, they know what I think about everything associated with this game."
The fiery words of Guardiola seem hard to believe considering Mourinho's reputation as a stirrer and mind game enthusiast. While many view his personality in the press room as that of a bully, the reality is simple - take Mourinho seriously at your own risk. His actions are all an amusing attempt to try and unsettle the opposition and cause a rash response from his opposite number; hook, line and sinker in Pep's case.
Instead of laughing off or simply ignoring the taunts, Guardiola's outburst just goes to show how high emotions are running and that, yet again, when it comes to pre-match shenanigans, Mourinho has marked his territory in style.
The action is live from 8.45pm but with the second leg on May 3rd, you can be sure we have not heard the last from either man.