El Centrocampista

Madrid flatter to deceive as Dortmund revenge mission looms

Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images Europe

Another weekend, another easy La Liga victory. Indeed Jose Mourinho’s 100th win since arriving in the Spanish capital was never really in doubt once Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria had given their side a two goal lead with less than half an hour on the clock.

Zaragoza goalkeeper Roberto was entitled to feel aggrieved that his brilliance in denying first Raul Albiol and then Luka Modric ultimately counted for nothing, when his defence failed on both occasions to get to the rebounds first.

However whilst the Portuguese custodian’s team mates generally also fell short at the other end of the pitch, save for a wonderful finish by Helder Postiga in the second half which was wrongly disallowed for offside, there is also little doubt that late goals by Michael Essien and Modric ensured a score line which was distinctly flattering to the champions.

For long periods of the game they appeared to operate on auto pilot, content to let their opposition keep the ball and conserve energy ahead of Tuesday’s return fixture against Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu. The crowd responded with whistles of discontent in both halves, and many were already in the car park by the time the lead was undeservedly doubled in the final few minutes.

Good news for Jose Mourinho was that Alvaro Arbeloa was fit enough to return to starting eleven to occupy the left back berth, with Sergio Ramos remaining on the other flank. Xabi Alonso’s suspension and Sami Khedira’s continuing absence meant that Essien was able to return to his more familiar midfield role, but one suspects that he will be the one to miss out when the former Liverpool star is again available mid week.

The Madrid based sport dailies continue to pursue ‘The Special One’ with regard to his preference for experienced professionals over talented youngsters, and more fuel was added to the fire on Saturday with the omission of teenage centre half Raphael Varane in favour of Raul Albiol. It is a criticism which has been levelled at Mourinho throughout his career, but he was customarily defiant when the subject came up again this week, pointing out that he had given 26 home grown players their first team debuts (albeit that eleven of them only ever featured in friendlies).

Highly-rated 17-year-old Jese Rodriguez was the latest to be added to that list when he scored on his debut in last Wednesday’s 4-1 Copa Del Rey victory at Alcoyano, and the press were duly reminded that the youngster is sometimes overlooked in favour of older players by reserve team coach Alberto Toril, who seems to be permanently in Mourinho’s bad books.

Ultimately all of this simmering dissatisfaction with performances and personnel will be dispelled should the defeat in Germany two weeks ago be avenged this week. Khedira is highly unlikely to have recovered from his hamstring injury in time to feature, and thus the return of Alonso may well be the only change from Saturday’s starting eleven.

After drawing a rare blank against Zaragoza, Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to add to his five Champions League goals, in a week when both he and his coach were linked in the Italian press with a megabucks move to Paris St Germain. A draw would not be a disaster against the German champions, but defeat would be unthinkable for a side whose individual class has proved far too much for their league opponents in recent weeks, but who will need a more complete team performance in Europe to silence the doubters in the stands.

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