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.
While arguments rage across the Spanish football world, Carlo Ancelotti and his Real Madrid players are just relieved that they came away from this tough night in Alicante with all three points. To be honest, they didn’t really deserve it, and Elche will quite rightly feel aggrieved that they did not record a famous result against the giants of La Liga.
Diego Lopez was once again much busier than he would have liked in the Madrid goal, but it was the away side who took the lead, with a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick at the start of the second half. But Madrid did not make the most of their advantage and press on, and they were punished.
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.
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.
Jose Mourinho and his careless statements are causing a serious problem in the Real Madrid dressing room. The Portuguese manager is tossing verbal grenades into the Spanish media as if it was the Normandy landings. Mourinho has always done things his own way, tending to surprise journalists with his comments, but he has usually been charming and amusing. Now, the special one is in danger of damaging his reputation, because the way he is behaving is lacking in class.
Real Madrid face the biggest game of the season so far tomorrow, and it seems as if Jose Mourinho will have fewer players to choose from than he would like. Luka Modric, who was the star of the show as Madrid came from behind to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, is a real doubt. To add to the problems, the Brazilian left back Marcelo looks like missing both legs.
Real Madrid had the chance to make up some ground on Barcelona in La Liga, after the Catalan club rested a number of first team players ahead of their Champions League trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. They could only manage a draw at relegation strugglers Celta Vigo, so a win for Madrid away to Real Zaragoza would close the gap to 11 points with nine games to play.
Real Zaragoza were also fighting against the drop, starting the game just two points above 18th place. They got a dream start, with Rodri shooting past Diego Lopez to stun the Madrid players. Mourinho had also made a few changes, starting with Essien, Modric, Callejon and Kaka instead of Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Ozil and Di Maria.
It was not just the fact that Real Madrid beat Barcelona at their own ground, but the comprehensive manner in which the victory was achieved that will have sent a stark warning to Manchester United. The situations are very similar. Both are two legged affairs, with the first leg at the Bernabeau ending all square at 1-1. If Real Madrid can get somewhere near the level of performance they produced at the Camp Nou last night, then United are going to struggle to live with them.
Jose Mourinho got some great news this week, when it was revealed that his keeper, the Spanish international Iker Casillas, has had the plaster removed from his hand and is looking good to be back a lot sooner than was predicted. The 30-year old keeper broke his finger in a cup game against Valencia two weeks ago and was operated on the next day. Medical experts predicted it would be three months before he could train properly or play again.