The week of Valencia began for Real Madrid – two cup matches with one league meeting at the Mestalla. While a Copa del Rey 2-0 win at home is a fine way to start it, once again the form of his team has to be worrying Jose Mourinho, while Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t find the net due to some amazing goalkeeping.
Leaving Vicente Guaita heroics aside, Ronaldo wasn’t really felt. Both teams decided this match will be about the central midfield, as Valencia fielded four central midfielders and Real Madrid used five, although one of them, Michael Essien, was playing at right back. Mesut Ozil was somewhat of a right winger, which made Real’s attacks much slower and less dangerous most of the time.
Jose Mourinho seems to be forcing Luka Modric into the team no matter the cost. After failing to display a good match in the position Ozil usually plays in, Mourinho shifted to a more condensed trio in the middle of the pitch – Xabi Alonso as the deeper one, Sami Khedira and Luka Modric playing ahead of him in the 50/50 capacity, covering for the other while one of them goes to press high.
While it did disturb Valencia from making more of the match, it was hard to say Real dominated the match. Maybe in the first half. The second one was about the struggles they’ve seen all season, as Ronaldo just taking the ball and creating something out of thin air becoming their only option. Valencia dominated in the second half, but couldn’t get the result they usually get out of the Santiago Bernabeu (a draw) over their last two visits.
After dropping 18 points behind Barcelona, there’s nothing left to lose for Jose Mourinho, so he’s busy with experiments. The Casillas experiment, now with the midfield. He isn’t sabotaging his team like some thought when he decided to begin the whole Casillas – Adan circus, but he was certainly burnt badly in that one, leading him start trying and finding some formula that might give him the edge against Manchester United.
That’s where everyone is looking towards – the Champions League, the only thing that’s left. The Copa Del Rey, the La Liga, they won’t be forgotten, but they’ll become a ground for tactical changes for Mourinho, relying on the fact that he has enough firepower up front to cover for any mistakes he makes, most of the time at least. Not everyday Cristiano Ronaldo finds a goalkeeper in such perfect form in front of him, drawing two amazing saves from Guaita.
It’s funny to think that an entire season will be defined by 180 minutes that come along so soon, in February. Miss out on making the quarter finals, and it’ll be inevitable but call this season a miserable failure, and let the media festival around Jose Mourinho and the team begin.
One thing that did work for them was the pressure on the referee, applied by Angel di Maria before the match. There were at least 3 or 4 big mistakes they made in favor of Real Madrid, leading to a lot of Valencia frustration after the match. At this point of the season, catching breaks from the refs is pretty much all that’s left for Real Madrid.