Pitchside

Is Real Madrid’s title bid now doomed?

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Ronaldo and Bale

If a week is a long time in politics, then in football it is an eternity.

This time last week Real Madrid were in the driving seat when it came to La Liga. They were four points ahead of Barcelona and next up in the League was El Clasico. A victory would see Los Blancos go seven points ahead of Los Cules and effectively end Barca’s League challenge. A win for the Catalans and the League was back on. In the shadows Atletico Madrid were waiting, still in the hunt but mainly ignored despite being ahead of Los Azulgranas.

Three days after El Clasico, Real Madrid would be sitting third and most fans were writing off the title, despite the fact there are still eight matches to go and that Real Madrid have possibly the easiest run of games.

Before El Clasico, Real Madrid had gone 31 games unbeaten. There was a lot of optimism in the air. Barca had been a little rocky in the League and were there for the taking. Madrid were flying and after a stuttering start to their campaign, had picked up momentum and looked set to run away with it.

A week later they had suffered their first back-to-back defeats in the league since the 2008-09 season. That was the season before Florentino Perez returned and Cristiano Ronaldo came to town. A week ago, Barca were four points behind, now they are two points ahead and although some in the media have ignored it, Atletico have gone from three points adrift to three points ahead.

Against Barca, Real Madrid were enraged with the referee and may have a case to be angry but against Sevilla there were no excuses. Los Merengues were poor down at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and looked lost. After the game, the knives were out and nobody was safe.

Fingers have already been pointed and Carlo Ancelotti has received a lot of negative headlines but he is not alone. Diego Lopez has been singled out for a criticism for his recent displays.  The goalkeeper was signed by Real Madrid from Sevilla over 14 months ago to cover the injured Iker Casillas. When San Iker returned, Jose Mourinho opted to stick with Lopez between the posts. Ancelotti did likewise and for the most part there was little that anybody could complain about.

Yet, after El Clasico and now Sevilla, questions are being asked on whether it is time to bench the former Villarreal stopper or not. Casillas may not be as loved as he once was by the fans but the recent displays in goal have seen more and more Madridistas turn to Twitter calling for his return. Ancelotti admitted a few weeks back that with the club playing in three competitions he may use Iker more and now may be the time to make a change.

Many fans are also pointing to the injury of Jese Rodriguez. Since the canterano came into the first team he has been a revelation but against Schalke in the Champions League he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Against Sevilla, fans raised the point on social media that this was a game where the youngster usually made an impact.

That in turn raises another point. Why is a team that has the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and spent over €20m on Isco, pinning their hopes on a kid who had started fewer than 12 games. Jese is a great talent but it is a little strange and a bit far-fetched that some fans are using his injury as an excuse for the club’s poor form.

Real Madrid are just three points of Atletico and are far from out of the League but they can’t afford another slip up. Next up is Rayo Vallecano, a team in fine form and who recently beat Valencia. In recent years a draw has been seen as a defeat and a loss is seen as disaster and so another blip will surely spell the end.

Atleti have Athletic Bilbao and Barca are away to Espanyol, two games that are not going to be easy for either side. Last week things for Real Madrid were looking great. Seven days later it is all doom and gloom. What will the situation be next week? Let’s wait and see.

Football España

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