Days of speculation on whether José Mourinho would leave Iker Casillas on the bench against Real Sociedad have finally been ended. According to last-minute updates from both major Madrid newspapers, As and Marca, Adán will start for Los Blancos in the game against Real Sociedad.
Casillas' second spell on the bench in as many league games for Madrid is a sign that Mourinho may well be considering making Adán his first goalkeeper.
However, if the results don’t follow and Madrid’s poor form continues, it could prove a difficult decision to justify and could distance Madrid fans further from Mourinho.
This decision also means that Casillas will start the game against Celta in the Spanish King’s Cup on Wednesday, Mourinho having announced that the goalkeeper who “plays in the league won't play in the cup” (via Marca).
The Round of 16 tie at the Bernabeu has gained increased significance after Madrid were defeated 2-1 in the Balaidos stadium in the first leg. Considering the distance that separates them from Barcelona in the league, the cup could well be one of the only two trophies Los Blancos could compete for this season.
The timing of Casillas being dropped from Real Madrid’s starting XI just before the holiday break of La Liga meant that the Spanish press had little else to write about during the last two weeks.
In retrospect, diverting the attention of the press from Madrid’s poor run of form may well have been one of the reasons for the coach to drop Casillas, specially considering the Portuguese’s expertise in manipulating the media and shielding his team from criticism.
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Mourinho himself gave a different reason in this week's pre-match press conference, stating that it was good for Casillas to feel he had competition and had to win his place in the starting XI.
"I don't think that staying in the comfort zone is ideal for any player. We are going to try to provide that healthy dose of competition" said Mourinho (via Marca).
The Christmas break also coincided with a number of prizes, nominations and press top XIs being announced for 2012. Inevitably the European and Spanish champion figured prominently.
On Jan. 4 the International Football Federation of History & Statistics named Casillas the best goalkeeper in the world for the fifth consecutive year. The award is delivered by journalists from around the world and ranked the Spaniard first, with 224 points (via Goal.com).
The goalkeeper he faced in the Euro 2012 final, Gianluigi Buffon, was a distant second, with 128 points. Casillas is just one point behind Buffon in the accumulated table of this award since 2000. Two prestigious European papers, The Guardian and L'’Equipe both named Casillas as the best goalkeeper in the world for 2012.