* A week which began badly for Real Madrid as Barcelona leapfrogged them in the league got worse as they lost 4-3 at home to Schalke in the Champions League, qualifying but with a chorus of boos and press opprobrium.
Real Baled out of another crisis but the clasico beckons.
Fans turning up at the Bernabeu on Wednesday expecting a cakewalk after Real’s comfortable 2-0 away win in Gelsenkirchen instead had to endure a rollercoaster ride to the next round and the awkward spectacle of former merengue Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bagging a brace and almost knocking out his former employers.
Skipper Dominoqq Online Terbaik Iker Casillas tried to round up his shattered troops at the final whistle for a centre-circle mea culpa to the fans but Cristiano Ronaldo refused to take part and the boos rang out anyway.
Cries for Costa Rican custodian Keylor Navas to be fast-tracked into the first team returned as Casillas failed to stop three goals, but the veteran goalkeeper also kept his club alive in the competition with a crucial late save.
Carlo Ancelotti announced Navas would start at home to Levante but that Casillas would return for next week’s crunch clásico with Barcelona, a game which could decide the title.
Opinion polls showed 56% of Real fans blamed the players, 27% Ancelotti and 17% owner Florentino Perez for the defeat and subsequent ‘crisis’.
Three wins, three losses and a draw in their last seven games is not the stuff champions are made of, and Barça’s stunning show at Manchester City and bypassing of Real could not have come at a worse time for Los Merengues.
Of the players, few came away with much credit against Schalke although Karim Benzema’s sole strike and Ronaldo’s two goals were of top quality, while Toni Kroos ran his socks off.
Ancelotti was slated once more for his over-reliance on 4-4-2 as well as recalling the soon-to-be-sold Sami Khedira only to substitute him on the hour anyway, while expensive recruits Illarra (€39 million) and Lucas Silva (€14 million) warmed the bench.
The much-vaunted ‘BBC’ Real’s attacking trio of Gareth Bale, Benzema and Cristiano, currently compares unfavourably with Barcelona’s Messi, Neymar and Suarez (MSN?) and should really be renamed the BC given Bale’s barren spell.
Until Sunday night, Bale had failed to score in the last nine games and had provided only one assist, a meagre return for the world’s most costly footballer.
While the Bernabeu’s whistling of the Welshman has seemed a little cruel, looking at those stats they might have had a point. That said, Bale’s ratio of shots to goals this season is better than last – 15% v 21%, as is his passing accuracy – 79% v 76%.
Ancelotti’s system is perhaps the reason. The Italian insists on a 4-3-3 going forward with Bale on the right of the BBC trident, but this shape is not making the most of Bale’s thoroughbred speed.
His most memorable goals, such as against Barcelona in last year’s Copa del Rey final, or for Tottenham against Inter in the Champions League, have come from the left flank when he has yards of grass ahead of him on the counter-attack.
Too often this season he has been marooned around the halfway line on the right and close-marked, preventing him from making his buccaneering charges, but with CR7 a fixture on the left this is not about to change soon.
Ancelotti also wants Bale to drop back into midfield when Real lose the ball to form a 4-4-2, but Bale has been getting a lot of stick for not tracking back enough, adding fuel to the gripes that he has been selfish in attack.
Maybe he has had a few arachnophobic encounters in the Spanish capital, as he admitted last week apart from playing badly that his greatest fear was spiders.
Club owner Perez reminded hacks how good an opening season Bale had enjoyed last year and that other big clubs still want to buy him. Perez is inevitably a controversial figure given the power he wields and a sector of Real support, including the tabloid Marca, seem to be poking him by slating Bale’s waning contribution to ‘the cause’.
The Schalke defeat put a real dampener on Real’s week, while over in Catalonia Neymar could chuckle to journalists how close the holders had been to the Champions League exit door.