Spluttering Madrid In Need Of Recovery


Whilst Barcelona’s front three purrs beautifully, all is not well at the Bernabeu. In the space of two months, Carlo Ancelotti looks to have lost his mojo in some style…

There was almost a ripple in the space-time continuum and a rumble of complaint from the gods on high as Atlético Madrid and Valencia tried to occupy the same moment in reality on Sunday night at the Vicente Calderón. It was touch and go for a while as two sides who are both geared up to finish in third came head-to-head in the Spanish capital, but the universe held itself together.

Unsurprisingly, the result was a battering ram of a 1-1 draw between two almost identically matched sides: Atlético’s occasionally unmovable object against Valencia’s sporadic unstoppable force. Both teams also had renegade former Premier League strikers up front in the form of Fernando Torres and Alvaro Negredo, but it was left to the more burly types to come up with two set-piece goals.

Whilst the Rojiblancos of Atlético would have been fairly content with the point which keeps Valencia at bay, the Madridista would have woken up on Monday thinking the world had ended. They entered the winter break on a 22-match winning run and atop the Liga table, had a game in hand and Barcelona were apparently in disarray on and off the pitch. There was even excited talk in the pages of Marca of a tickled-pink Florentino Pérez wanting to make Carlo Ancelotti the Alex Ferguson of Real Madrid.

Spin forward two months and all the talk is of the Italian manager looking more Moyes-like with Marca fretting that the birthday of El President on Sunday was ruined by Real Madrid’s 1-0 defeat by Athletic Bilbao in new San Mamés.

Even Ancelotti, who reminded journalists on Friday that he had won three Champions League titles – and one not that long ago – admitted that the whole team was misaligned with a warning light on the Italian’s tactics dashboard beeping and flashing. „There’s no connection. There are too many individual actions. What are doing in attack is confusing,“ he said.

The Madrid manager has just two home games against Schalke and then Levante to get his team into a service hub and fixed before the visit to the Camp Nou for the Clásico. A defeat in that clash could see Real Madrid four points behind the Catalan club, although that would not be a fatal loss considering how flaky Luis Enrique’s side have been this season.

It was the dominant version on display against Rayo Vallecano, a team who literally cannot be better set up for Barcelona. The manager of the Madrid outfit, Paco Jémez, has the notion that it is better to be all roaring Sean Bean and die on your feet, preferring to going down 15-0 with vigour than to meekly dribble to a 1-0 loss. It’s a fine sentiment but not one that has been particularly fruitful. Barça have scored 37 goals against Rayo over the past seven matches with just two in reply.

A sad story from the lower ends of the league sees Eibar’s fall from grace picking up pace. The tiny Basque side which seems to have more fans watching from overhanging flats than capacity in the stands had a remarkable first half of the season. Unfortunately, a huge collapse in confidence sees Eibar with seven league defeats in a row and facing Barcelona in the Basque Country next week. An iffy pitch and local bravado may not be able to save them against a team which has it’s front three of Neymar, Leo Messi and Luis Suárez purring beautifully.

The same cannot be said for the tiresomely named „BBC“ of Real Madrid, which is coughing and spluttering like an engine accidentally filled with diesel. Ancelotti is going to have to start unclogging the system fast with a Clásico just around the corner – a match which really could see reality unravelling even faster for Madridistas in La Liga.

Tim Stannard