February 25, 2011
Despite a late equalizer through Bafetimbi Gomis, Madrid will return to the Bernabeu with an away goal and an unfamiliar sense of confidence after earning a result in the South of France. In three week’s time, Los Blancos will look to dispatch their pesky French rivals, which would, in turn, earn the Spanish side a trip through to the quarter finals in the Champions League for the first time in seven years. A streak of last 16 exits that Mourinho and company will obviously be happy see come to an end. Personally, Jose Mourinho is also working on his own little streak. Something to the tune of an impressive (that might be the understatement of the decade) nine years unbeaten at home in league play was extended at the weekend as Los Merengues brushed aside an inferior Levante, maintaining pace with Barca. Not to mention that over those nine years (Porto 38 matches, Chelsea 60, Inter Milan 38, Madrid 12), ‘The Special One’ has also hosted two European trophies on top of the domestic silverware. A step towards a third was taken Tuesday night where one must argue Madrid hold all of the cards in the return.
February 15, 2011
Ninety seconds into Sunday night’s fixture at Cornellá - El Prat, it seemed Madrid were destined to not take advantage of Barcelona’s draw from a day before. Iker Casillas was unjustifiably sent off on two minutes after a slight collision at the edge of the area. Warranted or not, the Spanish number one was shown a straight red, and Los Blancos were ordained to play a hostile away fixture with only ten men. Jose Mourinho improvised, sending on the Madrid number two in place of Argentina winger Angel di Maria, and his side responded resoundingly. Considering the circumstances, it was one of the best displays of football from Los Blancos this campaign. Through Marcelo, Madrid took an early lead on twenty-four minutes and, despite the numerical disadvantage, never looked back. Monday morning, the papers throughout the capital proclaimed that Madrid had reasserted their claim for the domestic title. Is that fair to say? Football is a game of momentum as is the favour of the pundits and it usually only takes a match or two to drastically sway opinions. Gaining two points may not seem like an achievement worthy of too many accolades; however, every point in the title race (as trite as it may be to say) will matter come May.
February 8, 2011
Parlaying his birthday celebrations into another stellar night on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo commemorated his 26th with another brace at the Bernabeu. After an inconceivable four game stretch without his name on the score sheet, the Madeiran-born star was the protagonist yet again as Los Blancos maintained their pace behind leaders Barcelona. Seven points adrift of the top, Jose Mourinho’s side are facing an increasingly steep uphill battle against a seemingly invincible side that hasn’t dropped points in the league since October. The same indomitable Catalunian club that Madrid will face in the Copa del Rey final in only a few months time. With Champions League football restarting in a fortnight, it should certainly be an interesting final few months in the Spanish capital (and let’s not forget about the Jose Mourinho created drama, which only adds to the intrigue of Los Merengues' season).
February 1, 2011
Insurmountable? Not a word used after only 21 matches in a 38-fixture campaign; however, Madrid’s stumble in Pamplona on Sunday may warrant the use of such drastic verbiage. Seven points is, by no means, the end of the road in most title chases, but most teams do not have to hope a squad of Barcelona’s quality slips up. Yes, the same Barcelona that has won 15 straight league matches, having not dropped points since October 3. The discourse from Mourinho and players was certainly that of a defeated mindset, acknowledging that the fight to catch Barcelona will be an incredibly steep precipice to traverse, even with 17 league matches remaining.