It hasn’t totally been a very good week for Real Madrid. Kicked out of the Copa del Rey for fielding the ineligible Denis Cheryshev in Cadiz on Dec. 2, both appeals lodged by the club since have failed to see them reinstated.
On Thursday, Karim Benzema was suspended by the France Football Federation over the striker’s implication in an ongoing case of alleged extortion involving international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
On Tuesday night, before the 8-0 demolition of Malmo in the Champions League, club president Florentino Perez and manager Rafa Benitez were the subject of the Bernabeu’s ire.
On Friday, in an interview, Cristiano Ronaldo said he missed Carlo Ancelotti and questioned the club’s policy of chopping and changing managers and selling players “every year.”
It will be a relief for Benitez to return to football matters. If the Real manager was the final port of call in checking whether any of his players were banned for the side’s Copa bow then his seat would be considerably hotter than usual. But he isn’t and Real have adopted their default position of ill-placed indignation. Essentially, it’s the old fax machine problem again. Benitez, who is a tech-savvy type, is probably exasperated that anybody in the 21st Century still uses a fax machine.
The other bit of bad news for Real Madrid is that Villarreal round off the weekend fixtures. The match against Malmo may have provided some welcome relief, but it was a little presumptuous of Benitez to claim the win showed Real are back as an irresistible attacking force.
Malmo were absolutely dreadful, as a side who finished fifth in a league that ended more than a month ago and who had played two competitive matches in the interim — a 4-0 loss to Shakhtar and a 5-0 drubbing at home at the hands of Paris St-Germain — might have been expected to be. The least expected of Real was to get to six in the Bernabeu.
Sunday’s match will provide a more accurate marker of where Benitez’s side stand. For most of the season, Real have enjoyed the 4pm Saturday slot. This weekend, they play last, by which time title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid might be seven and five points clear respectively.
And Real are not facing a rag-tag Liga also-ran. Villarreal have for a long time adhered to a signature playing ethos. During Manuel Pellegrini’s long and successful tenure, the Yellow Submarine played with verve, based on possession, quick passing and rapid transitions. Not that Pellegrini didn’t have a midfield general: Marcos Senna took care of anything that came the wrong way.
Current coach Marcelino imbues a similar style but he has added a layer of counter-attacking and direct play that had been previously lacking. Villarreal can pass you to death or make it quick and painless. The choice is the opposition’s. And like Pellegrini before him with Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Forlan, Marcelino knows how to spare the odd player or two from fading in the twilight of their careers.
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate