There have been stories circulating in the Spanish press that all is not exactly rosy in the Real Madrid dressing room. The trouble apparently flared after the disappointing and damaging derby defeat by Barcelona on Sunday and if it does not get sorted out soon then it could affect the team’s focus for the crucial final nine games of this La Liga season.
For long periods of the game in Turin last night, Real Madrid were outplayed by the Italian champions Juventus. The first half especially was a case of holding on under concerted pressure from the home team. Iker Casillas had already kept Madrid level before a rash challenge in the box by Rafael Varane gave Vidal the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot, and he did so just before the break.
Only a year ago, Iker Casillas was well on his way to becoming the Real Madrid player with the most games, as well as already winning more caps than any other for the Spain national team. His nearest rival for that honour is Xavi with around 20 less than Iker’s 151. His Madrid team mate Sergio Ramos is next, back on 110, but he is younger than Casillas. That shouldn’t matter to a goalkeeper, but if you lose your place in the team that is another matter.
Carlo Ancelotti will be glad to return to the Champions League tomorrow, where he has enjoyed his best result of the season by far, the 6-1 away demolition of the Turkish champions Galatasaray. Madrid have been winning in La Liga, but often not very convincingly, and the derby defeat to Atletico at the weekend was the catalyst fir the players to call a crisis meeting with their boss.
Apparently, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo were the main speakers, being the club captains and best player. It is reported that Ramos insisted that the coach needs to trust his players more, while the general consensus was that all of them need to work harder individually and collectively.
The last time that Real Madrid played Galatasaray in Istanbul, which was in last season’s Champions League quarter-final, they lost 3-2, and that will give the Turkish champions a great confidence boost ahead of tonight’s game. They are a dangerous opponent, certainly especially with the vocal and hostile home crowd in full swing.
Carlo Ancelotti knows he cannot afford to lose this game, and he is still trying to get the new players integrated into the team, while coping with the absence through injury of key players Xabi Alonso, Marcelo and Varane. The defence is really important tonight, so the experience of Pepe and Sergio Ramos could be vital, as could the cover in front of the back four so I expect Sami Khedira to start.
The Real Madrid club captain and keeper, Iker Casillas, is set to start his first competitive game for the club since he broke his finger in a La Liga game against Valencia on 23rd January. Jose Mourinho then signed Diego Lopez from Sevilla, but Casillas did not get his place back when he recovered and it was clear that the player and manager had serious issues with each other.
It was a surprise, however, when Ancelotti continued to select Lopez this season, and there has been lots of speculation as to why. The thing is, Lopez has been p[laying well, including a Man of the Match performance to rescue a draw at Villareal on Saturday.
It is fair to say that Real Madrid have looked far from their best so far this season, although they did manage to win the last two La Liga games. Both could have gone wrong but for some fortunate refereeing decisions, but we had plenty of bad ones last season, so you have to take the rough with the smooth.
In today’s early kick off, Athletic Bilbao came to the Santiago Bernabeu hoping to capitalise on Madrid’s slow start, but they were to be very disappointed. They came up against a much sharper looking Madrid side, with Luka Modric running things brilliantly from the middle of the pitch.
If the Real Madrid pair of Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema were trying to convince the manager Carlo Ancelotti that they deserve to stay at the club and be important members of the team this season, then the performances they put in last night should have done the trick.
Di Maria was the best player on the pitch, always threatening and creating opportunities going forward for a generally poor and lacklustre Madrid side. The trip to Granada was fairly similar in it’s unconvincing nature as the opening game of La Liga against Betis last weekend. Cristiano Ronaldo was far from his best, putting three good free kick opportunities in a row straight into the Granada wall.
There are reports in the English media that three Premier League clubs are hoping to sign the Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are all thinking about trying to sign the 32-year old Spanish international. Normally this would be of absolutely no concern to Madrid fans, because Casillas is the club captain and has never shown any wish to play for any other club.
There were obviously a lot of old acquaintances in this game between Real Madrid and Chelsea to decide who won the International Champions Cup in Miami. To call it a friendly might be slightly misleading, however, because of the attempts by Jose Mourinho to wind up his former star player Cristiano Ronaldo by talking about the `real` Ronaldo being the Brazilian striker.