Tomorrow`s trip to the Vicente Calderon stadium to face Athletico Madrid is a must win game for Mourinho`s whites. If Barcelona beat Getafe tonight, they will be a single point behind the leaders. Real are boosted, however, by the return to fitness of Di Maria, Lass and Carvalho.
Recent form suggests no problem for Real, as they have not lost a derby in over ten years. Mourinho can pick any team he wishes, with his only concern being the accumulation of yellow cards. Ronaldo, Alonso and Coentrao are one yellow away from suspension, with Di Maria, Kaka, Higuain and Khedira two yellows away from suspension.
Real are at home to Sporting Gijon next before they visit the Nou camp, which could decide la liga. It might be better if Ronaldo and Alonso picked up yellows tomorrow and missed the game against Sporting who are languishing at the foot of the table.
Tomorrow`s game is not being taken lightly though. Athletico have their top scorer Falcao back and they are chasing a champion`s league place for next season. Captain Iker Casillas has stated that “every year they are more eager to beat us” and has acknowledged manager Diego Simeone`s positive effect as ” a new and fresh air….they use the ball very well.”
After an excellent performance by Valencia, with Guaita claiming that it was his best ever game in goal, Real Madrid had to settle for a point. Barcelona`s 4-1 victory away to Zaragoza means that the lead at the top of La Liga is now just four points.
This was the first goalless league draw at the Bernabeu since 2007 and increases the pressure on Jose Mourinho and the players. Pundits had almost given Madrid the league title a few weeks ago when they pulled out a ten point lead, whereas some are now claiming Barcelona are favourites.
The scoreline does not do justice to an excellent Madrid performance, they just happened to meet a very strong and determined Valencia. There were fifty shots during the game, 33 to Madrid and countless great saves, Casillas having to rescue his team from an even worse result on a couple of occassions.
Reaction to the result was mixed. The fans gave the team a rousing reception, while blasting the referee for failing to give at least one penalty and a red card. Karanka gave the post match interview and, alyhough clearly unhappy with the refereeing, stopped short of any specific accusations. Arbeloa blamed bad luck, when Madrid did beat the keeper the woodwork was there to deny Madrid a winner. Casillas was even more magnanimous, admitting that either team could have won.
Casillas and Arbeloa were more keen to look forward to wednesday`s crucial derby against Athletico. Keep calm and carry on.
As Arbeloa rightly said, “we would have taken a four point lead going to Barcelona at the start of the season.”
After the midweek champions league first leg ties, Madrid sit in the best position to progress. A 3-0 away win means they are almost certain to claim a semi-final place when APOEL visit the Bernabeu.
Bayern Munich look like they will be Madrid`s opponents in the next round after a 2-0 away win in Marseille. The german`s had a strong game and looked potent in attack. Their main threat, Arjen Robben, scored a goal and set one up for Mario Gomez. Real Madrid will have the advantage of playing the second leg at home in the semi-final.
Barcelona flattered to deceive against a resolute AC Milan. Although they had most of the possession, they struggled to create many clear chances. Milan defended superbly and were quick and menacing on the break. Barcelona will complain that they should have had a penalty after Alexis was tripped by the goalkeeper but Milan should have scored through Robinho in the first ten minutes. It is anybodies game in the Nou camp.
Chelsea are favourites to face the winner after a 1-0 away win against Benfica. They seem to be hitting form at the right time, as does Fernando Torres. They will provide a tough test for any team when in form.
See you in the final.
The “Daily Express” has reported Real Madrid`s desire to sign Robin Van Persie, Arsenal`s star striker. The Dutchman is having his best ever season for the London club, and Real are reportedly willing to offer thirty million euros to prise him awaay from Arsene Wenger`s team.
Another team closely watching Van Persie is big spending Manchester City so competition could be fierce. Madrid are known to be keen on a current Manchester City player, the Argentinian striker “Kun” Aguerro. Diego Maradona`s son-in-law has been out of the side quite a bit with injuries and Mancini`s rotation policy. Their have been rumours of a possible swap with Higuain but it remains to be seen if the players are interested in this.
Manchester City`s other striker, Edin Dzecko, has been linked this week with a possible move to Madrid`s fierce rivals, Barcelona. Out of favour Carlos Tevez is again playing for City, so it looks like they will be connected with lots of rumours in the summer.
Jose Mourinho took Khedira with him to the press conference ahead of tonight`s quarter-final in Nicosia, Cyprus. Both showed great respect to the Cypriot side for ot`s history and the acheivements of recent years. This was after five days of silence from the Real Madrid camp following the events at Villareal. They did walk out without answering the last question, which was about the ” law of silence.”
Real will have to manage without Alonso, Lass and Di Maria tonight. Mourinho is expected to select four from the five most attacking players available.( Ronaldo,Benzema,Higuain,Kaka,Ozil ) Varane is likely to start in defense after his superb performance on saturday. To keep a good balance to the team is important so Coentrao, Khedira and Granero could well occupy midfield and ready to retreat to assist the defense when necessary.
All three strikers scored on saturday so it will be unlucky for one to be droppedbut Mourinho has shown slight preference to Benzema over Higuain, when both have been available. Real Madrid have no0t looked their best when playing defensively and Mourinho would love to have a semi-final place almost booked before the second leg at the Bernabeu.
Christiano returns to the stadium where he was taunted with shouts of “Messi, Messi,” while playing for Portugal in September.
Di Maria was probably fit enough to be in the squad but Mourinho has decided to wait until their next game against Osasuna.