One of the reasons Jose Mourinho is so popular among his players in every team he manages is how he backs them up. After winning only one match in the first four of the season in the Spanish La Liga, following the 1-0 loss in Sevilla by playing in the Champions League against Manchester City, the special/only one isn’t taking the criticism on himself anymore.

Mourinho spoke to quite a few journalists after the match against Sevilla, in which Real Madrid were behind after 70 seconds and always seemed second best throughout the contest, in quality, passion, aggression and overall determination to win the match or at least come back from the South of Spain with a point. There isn’t one complete version of everything he said, but obviously, unlike most of the time, he isn’t blaming anyone but his own players.

I changed two players at half-time but I could have changed seven. It is one of the things that you should be allowed to do – change more players. We don’t have the concentration and we don’t have the mentality to suffer for results. My team played well against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup but in no other game have they performed. A lot of the players’ heads are not properly committed and concentrated on football being the priority, but I am the coach so I must take full responsibility.

No referees, no Barcelona conspiracy, not even himself for bad tactics or preparation. Just his players (although no one directly, specifically mentioning he doesn’t mean Cristiano Ronaldo, although he probably does) for not having their head in the game. And when Mourinho actually calls out his players in public, it means things are a bit more serious than usual.

8 Points behind your title rival is always a lot, but even more in the Spanish league, where dropped points are a rarity for both Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years. Last season, Real Madrid compiled only two league losses in 38 matches. This season, it’s taken four matches, losing both of their away games. Mourinho knows this team needs a wake up call, and maybe some lineup changes to shake things up.

Looking back at their league matches, they played well against Valencia, only being unlucky not to score more than one and conceded late in the first half. Granada aren’t a real indicator for anything, but their jumbled up play in Getafe (second half) and Sevilla (entire match) showed up twice. Maybe it’s time to throw in Modric, to add another player who can handle the ball well. Maybe it’s only about working with the players and getting them out of whatever it is that’s keeping them busy.

There’s usually too much being made of early season losses. It’s an incredibly long season with many ups and downs. But with Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s always more dramatic, bigger than it is anywhere else. Big games are a great chance for great players to shake off whatever it is that’s holding them back, and Manchester City in the Champions League has turned into something much bigger than anyone expected.

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