Jan 12, 2013, 7:21 PM EST
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.
Mar 6, 2015, 11:16 PM EST
Parma will stay afloat in Serie A in the near future, thanks to a loan from the Italian Football Federation.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:00 PM EST
Rodgers explains he’s going nowhere amidst links to a possible opening at Manchester City this summer.
Mar 6, 2015, 9:07 PM EST
QPR boss Chris Ramsey recognizes his team’s relegation struggle but sees no need to panic.
Mar 6, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Kaka believes his MLS debut will be one of his “special” career-defining moments.
Mar 6, 2015, 6:10 PM EST
Jonny Evans will contest the FA charge against him for spitting at Newcastle United forward Papiss Cisse, who has already accepted a seven-game ban for the incident.
Mar 6, 2015, 5:25 PM EST
LA Galaxy fill an international roster spot with the addition of Finland’s Mika Vayrynen.
Mar 6, 2015, 4:50 PM EST
Storylines from the FA Cup, with the quarterfinals taking place over the next few days.
Mar 6, 2015, 3:45 PM EST
Preview of QPR v. Tottenham on Saturday.
Mar 6, 2015, 3:14 PM EST
Every team has one — or two, or three — guys that don’t get the credit they deserve. Who’s the MOST underrated player in MLS?
Mar 6, 2015, 2:22 PM EST
Can it really be considered a “rumor” if you’re the one who said it first? Either way, no comeback for Il Fenomeno.
Mar 6, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
It wasn’t pretty until late, but three points is three points. Improvement still needed before the World Cup.
Mar 6, 2015, 12:49 PM EST
Scholes is becoming quite the fire-starter, and Ozil is his latest target.
Mar 6, 2015, 11:49 AM EST
LVG is tired of your faux-controversies, British press. So much so he’s resorted to going along with them.
Mar 6, 2015, 10:38 AM EST
A bitter blow for last year’s world’s best women’s player. An advantage to the rest of the field.
Mar 6, 2015, 9:52 AM EST
Picking which six MLS games to watch this weekend was going to be really tough, so we did the dirty work for you.
Mar 6, 2015, 8:22 AM EST
Man United haven’t won the FA Cup since 2004. Is this finally their year?
Mar 5, 2015, 11:32 PM EST
This one will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:22 PM EST
Because who doesn’t love to critique and compare every team’s new jerseys?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 PM EST
The dribble was a thing of beauty, but he still had to apply the finish. Not a problem for Salah.
Mar 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
The season is officially on. Here’s a few reasons to get excited, in case you’re not already. (You should be.)
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- FA Cup preview: Wembley trips on the line as Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool shoot for semis 0
- Now that it’s happening, MLS’s 20th season is sure to be the best one yet 7
- 2015 MLS season preview: LA Galaxy 1
- 2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers 0
- PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree? 9