It might have been an all-too rare good weekend for Real Madrid just a few days ago, but it hasn’t stopped Jose Mourinho issuing a stark reality check to everybody at the club.
For the first time all season, save the Spanish Super Cup final second leg, Madrid won and Barcelona lost: normally a cause for celebration at the Bernabeu, but any joy that was felt was quickly evaporated by a quick look at the La Liga table.
Barca’s 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad – incredibly after going 2-0 to the good, too – is in truth of far more use to Real’s arch neighbours Atletico, who beat Levante 2-0 to go within eight points of the leaders, than it is to Mourinho’s side, who are a further seven points back despite thrashing Valencia 5-0 at the Mestalla.
That win was probably Madrid’s best performance of the season, and it has moved His Specialness to give his own brand of rallying cry. I don’t think the Portuguese’s concession of the title was anything other than genuine (although some might see it rather wearily as mind games) as he told reporters the ‘gap is far too big’ and there was no point ‘obsessing’ over the defence of their crown.
But what Mourinho has also done is let it be known that from now on, all eyes are on the Champions League, which should worry their last 16 opponents Manchester United, as well as the Copa del Rey, which should certainly worry their opponents in this quarter-final second leg: the very same Valencia who took a thrashing on Sunday.
In fact, the very same Valencia took a beating from Madrid in the first leg of the quarter final, this time 2-0, and we have this odd situation where the two clubs face each other for the third consecutive match.
It’s a nightmare for Los Che, and having been beaten by an aggregate of 7-0 over the last week it is unlikely to get any better. Valencia are 17/5 to at least eat into the 2-0 deficit, with the draw at 31/10 and Madrid quoted at 67/100, and I can’t see past
Madrid have had their troubles on the road this season – the four matches they have lost accounts for much of the gap to Barcelona in the table – but Ernesto Valverde has injury concerns and the last thing the Valencia coach needs is to be facing Madrid for the third time is such quick succession.
And Real can make the most of their psychological advantage, not to mention their technical one. Madrid have a great record at the Mestalla, hitting 17 goals in their last four visits and they can get another big-scoring win.
It is 23/20 for an away win and over 2.5 goals as has happened in the last quartet of games at Valencia and that looks good again: 25 of Madrid’s matches this season have produced at least three goals, and I would banker on this being one of the 16 that Real emerged victorious.