Caught off guard once again, and any hopes of repeating as La Liga champions are thrown out the window for Real Madrid. Losing three times in 13 matches is too much in this league, and for Cristiano Ronaldo to score only once in the last six matches is simply unheard of. These things go hand in hand.
Barcelona are simply too far, out of reach. Eight points before they play Levante on the road. Could be 11 points by Monday morning In this league, that’s simply close to impossible to bridge. Maybe it was Jose Mourinho battling all week with foreign managers, maybe it was something else. Real Madrid don’t usually struggle against teams parking the bus, but a combination of a brilliant day from Adrian, Betis’ goalkeeper, and a few minutes in which the home side actually pressed and got a goal the deserved.
From Real Madrid? Nothing much. Just waiting for Cristiano Ronaldo to do something great, taking 7 shots at goal, 3 of them stopped by Adrian. The body language said at all. Once Real Madrid went down, there was no one to pick them back up. Not Mourinho on the sidelines, not Xabi Alonso or Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. Smart players who stop playing that way. No speed, no force, made even harder by a Betis side in a stubborn performance.
Visits to Sevilla just aren’t Real’s cup of tea this season, losing to both of the city’s team in the span of two months, with a long unbeaten streak in between those defeats. Luck and goalkeepers having great days can only explain the result on some occasions but when it happens again and again, including three consecutive Champions League matches without a win, it’s obviously a problem.
And one of them is Cristiano Ronaldo, who on hand is broadcasting business is usual, but under the surface, something is happening. Too much frustration, too many goalless performances. It can’t be all bad luck or great goalkeeping. This is the Ronaldo of old – the one that doesn’t pass, that doesn’t even lift his head to see who’s open. Shoot, shoot, shoot. One of the great things about Real Madrid last season and during their better performances this season was his ability to move into the middle but often look for the pass first before shooting. There are enough talented finishes on this team for him to consider a pass.
Another big disappointment is Mesut Ozil, who hasn’t been himself since the Clasico and a tad before, during the whole drama with Jose Mourinho with going on. Many speculated it was just some fake conflict created to mystify and create deception, but not including that goal against Dortmund, Ozil has been lacking imagination and the usual creativity in his dribbling and passing that gets Real Madrid out of jams. This makes Xabi Alonso especially crucial, but every team in Spain and Europe knows that by now.
Not all is lost, but the league title seems like a distant dream, with the potential 11 points gap looming ahead. Cristiano Ronaldo? Maybe he was busy in recent weeks talking about the Ballon d’Or, he forgot he needs to win it on the pitch. Maybe these are the individual awards that are bothering him, making him miss out on the big picture. With him, he drags a whole team down to stagnant, egotistical style of football. Not the kind that won them the title last season, and not the kind that will take them too far this year.