Real Valladolid v Real Madrid, Spanish Primera Division, March 14, 2010
â€œWe’re the same players that came back against Sevilla on Saturday to go top of the league. We’re disappointed because for the sixth year in a row we’ve been knocked out. We’re going through a tough period but we have to get over it by winning the league.” â€“ Iker Casillas.
What a difference four days make. The euphoria surrounding the Bernabeu following Real Madridâ€™s 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla hit great heights after Los Blancos took top spot in La Liga. On Wednesday night, the policy of Galacticos 2.0 came crashing down with Manuel Pellegrini facing a most uncertain future after Lyon dumped the Spanish giants out of the Champions League.
A sixth successive exit at the first knockout round of the premier competition in Europe was met with disbelief in Madrid and it now appears that Pellegrini will be out on his ear even if the league title does return to the capital.
As a result, the visit to Valladolid could see a hugely determined Real Madrid side and they have been dealt a nice hand by the fixture list as their hosts are in deep trouble themselves. The Pucela are currently in the third and final relegation spot but are just as close to bottom side Xerez as they are to Real Zaragoza who are just above the drop zone.
Valladolid have the fourth worst defence in the Spanish Primera Division having conceded 44 goals in 25 games and have failed to win in 10 league games in 2010. This run has seen them lose at home to the likes of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Mallorca and it would be no surprise if Real Madrid repeat their 4-2 victory at the Bernabeu in October.
Internal issues have also had a role to play. Captain Alberto Marcos Rey publicly declared that some of his team mates that were not making an effort and should be â€œleft to one side.â€ And central defender Luis Preto came out in support saying: â€œWe all have to improve.â€
The home side do have a few players to cause Real Madrid problems. Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder Haris Medunjanin has had a good season and is dangerous from dead ball situations. Keko on loan from Atletico Madrid looks set to be a star of the future, Angolan striker Manucho will be eager to impress on the big stage and Alberto Bueno aiming to prove he shouldnâ€™t have been let go by Los Blancos in the summer.
The choices for Real Madrid boss Pellegrini look fairly straightforward. Xabi Alonso, a player whose standing seems to improve when he doesnâ€™t play, and Marcelo will come back into the side after they were suspended for the Lyon second leg. And Royston Drenthe and Karim Benzema are still struggling for fitness to return to the first team.
There are a host of Real Madrid players with something to prove. Cristiano Ronaldo will likely be hell bent on winning the league now and Gonzalo Higuain hoping his luck will turn in front of goal. Kaka has still yet to fully establish himself as a â€œGalacticoâ€ and it now seems likely that a few more massive names will be brought in this summer.
With stuttering Barcelona facing a tough home match against Valencia, this is a great opportunity for Real Madrid to bounce back from their traumatic Champions League exit.
101gg predicts: Valladolid 0 â€“ Real Madrid 3