Drink and women? No, Mr Dijsselbloem: football's our vice
Dijsselbloem got the wrong national vice
Last month, Spain was among the crisis-hit nations that Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem suggested are guilty of spending all their money on booze and women (with friends like that, why on earth should we be bothered about Brexit?). If you're going to ram your foot into your mouth, I'd say you could find a more defensible and less odious example: we spend it all on football. On Wednesday, Real Madrid visit Bayern Munich, where, in Angela Merkel's rich and prosperous country, tickets are priced at between 35 and 150 euros. A week later, the same game will cost 80 to 295 euros in Madrid - more or less double, seat for seat. It's not the first time I've been aware of such a disparity. Football is much dearer on these shores.
Some might say the match at the Bernabéu is the second leg, has more riding on it and, as a consequence, is worth more. I reckon the prices would have been just as high had the first leg been in Madrid, though. And for those who are sceptical, compare these rates: Bayern-Borussia Dortmund, Germany's headline domestic clash, cost only 15 to 70 euros at the weekend. The Madrid derby? 80 to 250. While the gap in price isn't quite as glaring, it's also more expensive to go to Barcelona and Atlético's home legs against Juventus and Leicester, respectively. Our national vice is football, not the two pastimes attributed to us by that rude Calvinist. To enjoy the beautiful game, we pay the asking price without flinching.
Appetising Champions League midweek in prospect
A cracking week of action is in store, starting with Barça's trip to Turin. They'll be without Sergio Busquets, which is a big miss. Luis Enrique has taken everyone to Italy (except the freshly operated-on Rafinha) for the sake of togetherness. I imagine he'll draft Javier Mascherano into midfield alongside Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta. A stern test awaits. Juve are a hugely solid unit with an attacking gem in Paulo Dybala and, in Gonzalo Higuaín, a striker with 27 goals to his name this term, having hit 38 last year, of which 36 saw him break an age-old Serie A record. Those are the figures of a top-class marksman. Barça, of course, will place their faith in their trio up front, who on Saturday left Málaga with their tails between their legs. A mouth-watering game, and one viewers in Spain will be able to see on free-to-air TV.
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