Real Madrid never have a quiet week, and their initial visit to their neighbors Rayo Vallecano ended in cancelled match due to some floodlights sabotage. Twenty four hours later, and it was business as usual, with Cristiano Ronaldo setting up one goal and scoring the second in what was his best performance of the season so far.
The numbers might not tell the story, with Ronaldo scoring three goals in the first five matches, but it was far from the best of starts for the second best player in the world. Not just the whole saga of sadness and unhappiness and wanting a new contract or whatever it is that cross Ronaldo and gave more people a reason to dislike him. Ronaldo simply played badly, even when he scored, like against Manchester City. Less involved, less effective. Maybe it was focus, maybe it was just being part of a squad that wasn’t looking good altogether.
Against Vallecano, it looked much better, much easier. Despite the aggressive side from the home side, Real Madrid felt comfortable right away. A good pass from Ronaldo found Di Maria, who found Karim Benzema to open the scoring from close range. It was all Real Madrid, all match. Ronaldo looked involved, more than previously during the season, and was the one who won the penalty later in the match to seal the win. He’s still struggling to find the goals from open play, but goals are goals, and he looks happy again, which might be the most important things.
The big rift between Jose Mourinho and Sergio Ramos, if it was ever there, seems to be over, giving the centre back, linked to the usual big names in the Premier League after his benching against Manchester City, his spot back in the back four. Being the best defensive player Mourinho has, it’s not like he had much of a choice.
What has been an interesting choice was giving Luka Modric the chance to start instead of Mesut Ozil, giving Real Madrid a different kind of look. Angel Di Maria, who has played a bit more in the middle during the previous matches, gets to be more involved in the build up play this season instead of waiting on the wings for the ball, maybe trying to get him back in the form he was last season. Modric makes it easier for Real Madrid to control the middle of the park, alongside Xabi Alonso and Mourinho’s favorite, Michael Essien.
What about Ozil? Mourinho hasn’t forgotten about him, but don’t be surprised to see him start on the bench in matches Real Madrid feel less confident about and go in with a bit of a “let’s begin by not losing” mentality, which is kind of the overall feeling after such a bad start, putting the champions 8 points behind Barcelona, who are winning matches whether they play well or not. Mourinho changed his mind a lot about things after the loss to Sevilla and then the win over Manchester City, maybe making up his mind about which horses he wants to ride in their attempt to get back into the title race.
His most important player, his best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is still not completely there. When every cut he makes from the wing to the middle is the most dangerous thing a defender can think of. More importantly, when the goals start pouring. Not that he looks like a focused individual once again, there’s a good chance we’ll start seeing it once again.