Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
January 23rd, 2011; 11:30 PM, IST
After progressing to the semi finals of the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid welcomes Mallorca at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The memories of a goal less draw, aided by a toothless attack in their very first game in the league against Mallorca, will be on José’s mind. Los Merengues defeated Atletico Madrid 0-1 mid week, and with an aggregate of 4-1, will take on Sevilla in the semi finals. Real Madrid will be playing in a Copa del Rey semi final after 5 seasons. This has come as a welcome distraction after a disastrous draw against Almeria last week. There have been talks about disputes between Valdano and Mourinho and also between Ramos and Ronaldo. Jose Mourinho has been very vocal about the need for a striker and Valdano has confirmed that the Los Blancos won’t be splurging this winter. Rumors have it that a loan deal for the Hamburg striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, is on the cards. Valdano too has assured that all deals, if any, will be settled very soon. Jose Mourinho would love to accommodate Van Gol in his beleaguered team.
Strong reports emerging out of the Spanish capital indicate that Mourinho is not happy at the way he is being treated and might move out. However, he has assured that he will stay at Madrid, at least till the end of the season. “The world is full of all sorts of rumors and a few of them are true. But in regard to rumours about my resignation from Real Madrid, I can say that I will be here until the end of the season, and then we’ll see. A lot depends on what will be and if all are happy in this co-operation,” said the Portuguese manager, when interviewed by AS. Nobody has ever doubted Jose Mourinho’s astuteness and this can be interpreted as a caveat to the Madrid administration. “Everything’s been exaggerated regarding my relationship with Mourinho. We have to strive to calm the situation down and focus on football in order for the team to be prestigious in every championship,” said Valdano in an attempt to salvage the situation. Fans are hoping for the controversies to come to an end as soon as possible, so that Los Blancos can play and entertain them without any off field distractions.
The Balearic club has done well so far in the season, considering the state that they were in, before the start of the season. Heavily in debt, it took someone of the stature of Rafael Nadal to bail them out. However, due to the poor financial situation at the club, UEFA decided not to grant Mallorca, the license to play in the 2010/2011 UEFA Europa League. This has even stunned Rafael Nadal. Mallorca is in the top half of the league and as pointed out by Nadal, in an interview at the ongoing Australian Open, will be keen to avoid relegation this season. Los Bermellones know that they have a tough task in hand as they travel to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, in an attempt to upset the Spanish giants. Michael Laudrup will need to plan well in order to disturb the hosts as they looked assured in their victory over Atletico Madrid. Mallorca, on the contrary, lost to Atletico Madrid last weekend. Nonetheless, the team will be looking forward to take something positive from this crucial away tie.
Team News And Tactical Brief
With Pepe injured, the central defensive position is up for grabs and Raul Albiol seems to be the contender for the starting spot. However, considering his not so assuring performances in the few matches that he had started, Mourinho will be keeping an eye on Mateos and Garay. Arbeloa has impressed Mourinho and is being rewarded with a starting spot in the team. Ramos will be present on the right flank making his trademark runs. Marcelo, playing as a defender since the start of the season, has been shifted to midfield in the previous match and looks set to start from there in this match as well. Mourinho, clearly unimpressed with Benzema, has relegated him to the bench and has moved Ronaldo upfront as a striker. Ozil and Di Maria are expected to retain their places. Xabi Alonso chooses himself and with Khedira injured, Gago might be making his first start of the season. Mourinho knows that he can’t afford to slip anymore, especially after the Almeria outing and will go full throttle to register a win. Karim Benzema has clearly fallen out of favor with the coach. Kaka substantiates this in an interview, mentioning that Benzema doesn’t usually give it all on the pitch.
Probable line up : Casillas, Ramos, Albiol, Carvalho, Arbeloa, Marcelo, Gago, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Michael Laudrup, the Real Madrid legend, returns to Santiago Bernabeu. After his team’s heroics at the Camp Nou, the Dane would love to emulate the same feat against Real Madrid. Last weekend’s encounter with Atletico Madrid was not a very pleasing experience for Laudrup. His team lost 3-0, missing a crucial penalty, which led to the momentum shift against them. The biggest problem for Laudrup is his absence of strikers. Guzman, who has been their best player, is suspended after he picked up a red against Atletico Madrid and Victor is injured. Speaking on how his side would approach this match tactically, the former Real Madrid star said, “We must reduce the space for players of quality like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Mesut] Oezil, [Angel] di Maria, [Karim] Benzema and Kaka, and not let them get between the lines. The individual quality of Xabi Alonso is no secret and we have to push him.”
This indicates that Laudrup’s men will allow very less time and space to the Galacticos. Real Madrid will look to move the ball quickly and attack continuously. Fans can expect an exhilarating display of football.
Probable line up: Auoate, Cendros, Nunes, Ruben, Ayoze, Marti, Nsue, Castro, Pereira, Webo, Bruno
1. Tennis star Rafael Nadal now holds a financial stake in RCD Mallorca.
2. Nadal’s uncle, Miquel Angel Nadal, is the assistant to Michael Laudrup.
3. Michael Laudrup has formerly represented Real Madrid as a player.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
It would be interesting to see Ronaldo play as a centre forward. This position is not entirely new to the Portuguese, as he has played in this position at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. He would be looking to repeat the same performances for his present manager – Jose Mourinho.
Real Madrid 3-1 Mallorca
Considering the fact that Real Madrid is playing at home and Mallorca will be missing a few key players, it would be difficult for Mallorca to contain Jose Mourinho’s men. A Real Madrid victory looks more likely.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST