Christiano Ronaldo has now scored forty league goals after a thunderous double against Athletico Madrid. Madrid`s portugese number seven unleashed an unstoppable free kick to open the scoring. Athletico`s keeper, Coutois, looked bemused as Ronaldo`s shot changed direction in the air and sailed past him into the net.
Real Madrid`s nerves were jangling again when Falcao powered in a header to equalise soon after. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and it was Ronaldo again who sent Real back on the road to victory with a solo effort from way outside the penalty area. It was a similiar strike to the first, curling one way then the other and also dipping furiously to confound the keeper again.
Real then took control, their attacking paying off as Athletico tired. A clear penalty was calmly dispatched by Ronaldo for his hat-trick. Callejon came on as a late substitute and duly smashed home the fourth goal. The Bernabeu and all the staff were ecstatic with a clear touch of releif thrown in.
Next up for Madrid is bottom side, Sporting Gijon, who will need a miracle to upset a rejuvenated Real. Even a loss at the Nou camp will leave Madrid at the top of La Liga and still looking at a league and European cup double. Everyone at the club will be feeling a little better today.
Jose Mourinho and the Real Madrid team must be feeling the pressure going into tonights game at Atletico Madrid as they are just one point ahead of rivals Barcelona. They must keep their heads and concentrate on the task ahead. We know they have the quality, strength and firepower to win against any team. They have been awesome at times this season and just need to get over the current blip.
Mourinho refused to release his team sheet after this morning`s training session but the absence of Lass, Carvalho, Sahin and Altintop from the team hotel surely means that they will not play. Di Maria is almost certain to start after his manager heaped praise on him today. “He gives us things that other players do not . He has the character that makes you think that anything is possible.”
Athletico have a problem with top scorer Falcao and striker Adrian suffering from flu. Manager Diego Simeone has included both in his team although neither trained yesterday with the rest of the squad.
A Real Madrid victory will see Iker Casillas join Raul on nine victories for Real at the Vicente Calderon stadium, a record he will be desperate to emulate.
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.