Despite a tough Champions League group draw, Madrid have faced little adversity so far this campaign. Pedro Leon stole a late equalizer at the San Siro; however, Los Blancos had positioned themselves far atop their group. Facing a hostile Barcelona crowd, Madrid crumbled. Mourinho’s side rebounded and has come away with all three points in every match since, save the second leg of a Copa del Rey tie where the capital club played a youth squad to protect a 8-0 aggregate lead. On Sunday night Los Blancos overcame hardship, coming from behind on two occasions before eventually upending a revitalized Villarreal team.
Third place in La Liga, Villarreal have been off to a tremendous start, their sights set on Europe after a two-year hiatus from footballing’s top tournament. The disparity in quality is evident as the club from northern Valencia are over ten points behind the pace of Madrid and Barcelona; the usual suspects slowly pulling away from the rest of the pack. Nonetheless, the visitors looked poised to play spoilers throughout the early happenings at the Bernabeu. Cani was rewarded for the Yellow Submarine on seven minutes, earning the visitors a deserved advantage. Ronaldo would equalize before Marco Ruben’s brilliant chip again saw Los Blancos down. At the half hour point, Villarreal were the better side.
Before the evening would end, Ronaldo would convert two more (seems like the Portugal star only scores in bunches) as Madrid parlayed their second equalizer into all out domination in the second half. Villarreal were convincing in the early moments, but Madrid were able to turn around their fortunes, finding their form to earn the honours and keep pace with leaders Barcelona (It helps when the FIFA Coach of the Year is at the helm to guide the ship).
It seems January will be a much quieter month on the transfer front than most pundits, myself included, had thought. Jose Mourinho, who impressively took home the aforementioned honours ahead of Vicente del Bosque and Pep Guardiola, announcing that Kaka will remain at the club and that the Portuguese manager will not bolster his roster during the winter window (nor were the Madrid brass willing to finance it, which makes playing the market a bit more challenging). With early season goal scoring issues behind them, Madrid have found their rhythm and are not looking back. Surely, it will not be an easy road with a plethora of obstacles ahead of them. Los Blancos trail the most complete team (and arguably the best modern football team ever) in the world, and, while the season has only just hit the halfway point, one would do better to not play catch-up with a club like Barcelona. February will see Madrid try and avenge their European exit at the hands of Lyon with the daunting task of remaining fit for Europe also in their sights.. The most competitive tournament in the world, the capital club may be in fine position to steal a domestic trophy but European glory will only come after an arduous journey against the continent’s best.
A third trophy in the mix for Los Blancos is the Copa del Rey, where Madrid learned their quarterfinals fate will come in the form of another Madrid derby. Atletico, who Madrid have dominated over the past decade, were recently humbled at the hands of recently promoted Hercules. Atleti have disappointed over the past few years, especially considering the abundance of talent at their disposal. New faces or not at the Bernabeu, if Madrid keep up their phenomenal form then excitement will reign throughout the Spanish capital.
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