Jan 12, 2013, 7:21 PM EDT
Having only allowed 20 goals through 19 games, Osasuna has one of the best defenses in La Liga. Unfortunately, because los Rojillos have scored a league-worst 14 goals, José Luis Mendilibar’s team have only won three times this season (also a league low). No surprise, Osasuna sits last in Spain’s Primera Division.
It’s a team Real Madrid should streamroll. Even on the road — even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Pepe — a team with El Real’s resources should have no trouble with Osasuna, a team they outscored 12-2 in two games last season.
But this is the 2012-13 Real Madrid, a team that’s never lived up to the club’s lofty expectations. They’re a team that started the domestic season flat before transitioned into Champions League disappointment. As winter came they embraced a dressing room chaos that eventually became a type of existential crisis. As José Mourinho confronted the heart of the team by challenging Ramos and benching Casillas, El Real’s play became a fractured and unmotivated team with no sense of consequences.
After today’s 0-0 draw at El Sadar, Los Blancos could be staring at an 18-point Liga deficit if Barcelona wins at Málaga tomorrow, yet there is little indication they care. Even Mourinho, perhaps out of tactics to use with this team, has adopted an accepting approach, saying he had “no complaints” after the match.
Against one of the Primera’s worst teams, the most expensive squad in the world were played to a standstill, left of absorb as many attacks as they created. They put one shot on goal to Osasuna’s two and split possession with their hosts, and failed to exhibit the kind of dominance the squad’s capable of imposing on a squad of this caliber. Yet José Mourinho “liked the team’s attitude” and had “no criticism” of their performance.
Clearly, he should. His squad showed none of will that was on display last Sunday when a 10-man team withstood a hat trick from Xabi Prieto to beat Real Sociedad, 4-3. As today’s second half ticked away and Mourinho threw on Karim Benzema, Kaká, and Mesut Ozil, there was never an uptick in intensity. There was never any desperation, let alone an increase in effectiveness. Repeatedly Osasuna seemed able to win possession, transition quickly, and put Real on their heals. That shouldn’t be happening against a team as impotent as Osasuna.
The only possible explanation for Real Madrid’s apathy seems to be focus on la decima - their 10th European title. The nine-time European champions are consumed by the pursuit, which is the whole reason why Mourinho is even in Madrid. That fixation combined with the team’s late fall swoon may have forced all their eggs into one basket, making these mid-January league matches almost inconsequential. Perhaps Mourinho has decided to make short terms sacrifices with the hopes of getting his team ready for Manchester United (their Champions League Round of 16 opponent).
If that means benching his best goalkeeper (Casillas) to regain his authority, so be it. If that means upsetting the locker room by butting heads with Ramos, he think that’s for the best. If that means continuing to try places to play Luka Modric, perhaps that will leave them in a better place come February. And if that means dropping points in January, losing track of Barcelona and Atlético Madrid in order to prepare the team for the decima, that may be his only way to salvage this season.
The problem for us, looking on from our detached position, is not knowing whether this is preparation or folly. Real Madrid looks inexplicably bad, and there’s no reason for it. They’re playing worse than we’ve ever seen a José Mourinho team play, and unless there’s some sign this team can turn it around — some indication there’s a method to this melancholy madness — it may not be Mourinho’s team for long.
May 17, 2013, 7:32 PM EDT
Wait a doggone minute! Didn’t Philadelphia and Chicago just play?
May 17, 2013, 6:45 PM EDT
Brest and FC Lorient will be the opposition for retiring midfielder’s final two pro matches:
May 17, 2013, 5:35 PM EDT
Something we should fold into the ongoing Landon Donovan-U.S. national team debate:
May 17, 2013, 5:10 PM EDT
David Beckham has an option to purchase an MLS expansion franchise, and that has zero to do with Chivas USA:
May 17, 2013, 4:52 PM EDT
We know that Major League Soccer’s All-Star match is headed to Sporting Park in Kansas City this year – but we remain in the dark about the opposition:
May 17, 2013, 4:20 PM EDT
The second game is under appeal.
May 17, 2013, 4:02 PM EDT
Coming off their first loss of the season, the Portland Thorns host the suddenly dangerous Washington Spirit.
May 17, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Can San Jose bounce back against a solid Colorado outfit?
May 17, 2013, 3:45 PM EDT
On the issue of lineup revealing and the timing thereof, they share a similar thought:
May 17, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
Both teams putting their unbeaten streaks on the line, goals galore in Seattle?
May 17, 2013, 1:23 PM EDT
Could USMNT winger Brek Shea be in trouble after he was part of a prank that went horribly wrong?
May 17, 2013, 12:59 PM EDT
Arch rivals Real and Atletico square off for silverware in the Spanish capital…which way will it go?
May 17, 2013, 11:17 AM EDT
Watch every single goal Beckham scored in Major League Soccer, then let us know which one was the best.
May 17, 2013, 10:52 AM EDT
Wigan’s manager has a tough decision to make, would moving away would be the correct one?
May 17, 2013, 9:23 AM EDT
Will Beckham now join PSG in an ambassadorial role? The race is on for Becks’ signature…post-soccer
May 17, 2013, 8:58 AM EDT
The Uruguayan striker speaks about his ambitions to play in MLS and his love for the USA.
May 17, 2013, 7:31 AM EDT
Worlds richest man looks set to buy ailing MLS franchise, is this the end for Chivas USA?
May 16, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT
This is where the big upsets can happen, and who doesn’t love a big upset potential?
May 16, 2013, 6:10 PM EDT
Since every player who started the last two World Cup qualifiers for Jurgen Klinsmann was named to today’s roster, putting our arms around the lineups ahead shouldn’t be too tricky:
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