Real Madrid are feeling the pressure, and it’s understandable. Losing six points out of their 10 promising lead over Barcelona which looked bulletproof just about a month ago will do that to you. Knowing they have to visit the Camp Nou will do that to you. Being outplayed by Valencia for long stretches of their match at the Bernabeu will do that to you.
It’s Real Madrid’s third draw in their last five La Liga matches, and the first time they failed to score at home this season. It didn’t have to do with playing badly. Real did everything right up to the point when they actually needed to score. Vicente Guaita delivered a heroic performance in the Valencia goal, with the woodwork providing plenty of support as well.
On the other side, Iker Casillas was a busy bee. Without Sergio Ramos and with two midfielders who kept pushing forward, it was easy to embarrass the Real Madrid back line. If Roberto Soldado would have played from the start, things might have ended up worse for Real. On the other hand, Aduriz starting and Valencia going for a non-striker kind of formation helped them create so much through midfield domination, especially in the first half.
It’s always easy to judge and reflect after the deed is done. Mesut Ozil created a couple of chances, but was ineffectual most of the time. His inability to threaten the goal, with everyone knowing he’s pretty much a pass only kind of player made it easy for Topal and Adil Rami, in excellent performances, handle the attacking waves of counter attacks. Benzema and Ronaldo can’t be completely controlled, but they handled them better than pretty much anyone else in Europe this season. Higuain? Not a day he would like to remember.
But more than that, Valencia offered a blue print for more teams facing Real Madrid to use. Barcelona have their own style and preferences, but they’re one of a kind. Valencia are a very good Spanish team, but not that far above the rest. Playing without a natural striker gave them the advantage in midfield. A quick release while staying tight in the back four or five with plenty of help from the DM’s created plenty of problems for Real Madrid, leaving too much space between their midfielders and the fragile back four, headed by the unexpected Pepe.
Real now enter their toughest stretch of the season – After hosting Valencia, comes the visit to the Vicente Calderon. Guaranteed win? Atletico Madrid are a soft team, but you never know with derby matches, despite the overwhelming results in favor of Real for over a decade now. Three days later it’s the easiest match of the stretch – Hosting Gijon. And then the real killer begins –
At Bayern (April 17), at Barcelona (April 22), Home against Bayern (April 25), Home against Sevilla (April 29), At Bilbao (May 2). Good luck.