First off, apologies for not publishing a weekly review last week, but with Barcelona playing on Sunday evening and the added responsibility of the statistical analysis, I simply couldn’t fit it into my schedule until the middle of the week, which is a little too late for publish really. It’s been a decent couple of weeks for the Blaugrana, one that could have been make or break in our season if the club was at the top of the league. Unfortunately, we are not, and it is taking a while for my sub-conscious to tag on. Last night’s performance was certainly typical of a mid-season "grind out a result" phase that so often characterises a Champions-elect campaign, with all the ingredients aside from that top spot. Here’s a quick look at this week’s (and last week’s) main talking points.
Are Real Madrid hitting a blip?
Could it be that the almighty Real Madrid have looked a little more vulnerable in recent matches? The draw away to CSKA Moscow can be explained/attributed to the conditions and if you really want to appear naive, the pitch. Plain and simple, I saw a Madrid team that looked laboured, in fact, ordinary when faced with a well-disciplined defense. A few days later, I saw the very same thing in their encounter with Rayo.
Rayo were well-drilled, difficult to break down and most importantly threatening on the counter attack. However, their finishing was not up to standards, and what could have been a comfortable win for arguably Madrid’s smallest top division side ended up as a defeat, all thanks to an improvisational moment of sheer excellence/arrogance (delete depending on personal viewpoint) from everyone’s favourite Portuguese winger, Cristiano Ronaldo. His backheel was superb, and ultimately won the game for Real Madrid, while one could argue that it also won Los Merengues the league title.
That goal also papered over a number of sizeable cracks, which Iker Casillas has done superbly to temporarily gap. However, if Jose Mourinho has failed to address those problems, then soon there will too many holes for Iker Casillas to plug, or those chinks will be turned into fissures by a more capable attacking side. Heading into their match with Espanyol this weekend seven points clear, it is still possible that Mourinho’s side could implode drastically, and from looking at the fixture calendar, that second leg with CSKA Moscow could be the touch paper.
But I doubt it.
Andre Villas Boas’ sacking
Don’t worry, I won’t even waste my time typing about those ridiculous rumours that Pep is ready to leave Barcelona to work at Stamford Bridge, instead, let’s talk about Jose Mourinho. The Special One was searching for a house in the capital last week, and he admitted in his pre-match press conference that he will return to London on Monday. Although, despite my best attempts to sensationalise his quotes, it is unlikely to be permanent. Not yet anyway.
Why would Jose Mourinho leave Real Madrid now, especially when Roberto Di Matteo is in charge until the end of the season and his side could yet complete the double? Exactly, although his house hunting does make a little more sense. Either Jose is ready to take temporary charge of England for the European Championships, or return to Chelsea in the summer after winning some sort of trophy. Maybe, just maybe, he wanted to expand his property portfolio. Who knows? Mourinho has always played mind games with other managers, and maybe this is an elaborate game to drive the tabloids into overdrive. For all we know, Jose is just trolling the world’s media.
Regardless of whether he leaves or not, Jose is making headlines for the wrong reasons, and as Tottenham have found out, constant speculation linking your manager with another job does take its toll. The Spurs are on a steep decline compared to previous months, so with a bit of luck, all this "Jose to Chelsea" has the same effect on Real Madrid. Or he just leaves now. Well, stranger things have happened right?