Osasuna vs. Real Madrid: Madrid Drop Points Again, and Other Talking Points
The fight has been fought and the day is lost. For Real Madrid now, there is no tomorrow in the La Liga title race.
After Madrid's goalless draw at Osasuna on Saturday night, city-rivals Atletico Madrid sit seven-points ahead, while league-leaders Barcelona have created a daunting 18-point gap.
Osasuna played well, they defended much more impressively than they have done in recent months, but on the whole the match didn't look like a tie between the reigning La Liga champions and the team at the bottom of the table.
It was typical Madrid and much of what we've seen so far this season. As each weekend comes to a close and the gap widens between Madrid and Barcelona, we will continue to talk about Jose Mourinho and the tension within the squad. Does it get boring? Certainly. Is it relevant? Of course.
The Real Madrid manager had no option but to start Iker Casillas in goal, while the rest of the XI was uninspiring and lacking in imagination. Of course, there were suspensions to deal with, but considering what was available to Mourinho on the day, he could have put forth a team who looked far more likely to come away with a win.
At this stage, Real Madrid aren't moving forward, however they're not moving backwards either. Mourinho will have his methods for breaking out of this slump—after all, he is still a very good manager. But how long can a club of Real Madrid's stature continue on like this?
The Real Madrid Squad Don’t Look Motivated
It looks very much like the Real Madrid players are simply going through the motions of the league, playing because they have to but not competing in the way they should.
Again, the performance against Osasuna was lifeless, uninspiring and tame. Where were the sparks of creativity? Why was Gonzalo Higuain sent in to start his first match back from injury away in Pamplona?
For all the negatives that can be said about Osasuna and the fact they're propping up the rest of the league, travelling to Osasuna and playing against their gritty style can be demanding.
The first shot on target clocked in at well past 90 minutes. In fact, it came with just a little over 10 seconds left of injury time. It's unacceptable, yet wholly unsurprising.
There are very few ways to summarise the 0-0 draw as well as this, but boring really hits the nail on the head. Real Madrid's standards are and should be much higher.
For many of the players, the league looks to have become a nuisance. Quite simply, no one fancies it anymore.
Good Individually. Collectively, Not Good Enough
We should certainly look at the game against Osasuna as an indication of what life could be like at Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo. And it's not that the rest of the attacking members of the squad are bad, it's just that without Ronaldo and one or two others, they look lost and without direction.
The lack of Ronaldo gave way to the loss of directness and pace. The lack of Mesut Ozil was felt heavily, as his ingenuity in the attacking-half was missed and in no way replaced.
Karim Benzema? Well he's been the better striker this season, and with Gonzalo Higuain returning from injury, it was evident just how rusty the attack was.
Jose Callejon is a good squad player to have, and he very well could have given Madrid the win with an excellent goal in the second half which was ruled offside. However, he's a player who needs added quality around him. He's a player who you can draft in to play alongside Ozil and Ronaldo but not as replacements for them.
Callejon is a very hard worker, a loyal player no matter the off-field disruptions and will pop up with goals every now and then; his status as a graduate from Castilla is also pleasant to see. However, he's not a player you look to as one to rise above when the team are struggling.
And much of the same can be said about both Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria at this point in the season. Good players, but how good are they when replacing the obvious starters in the team?
Di Maria has been woeful for the majority of the season where he's played. While Modric is yet to come to life as the metronome in midfield that Jose Mourinho needs him to be.
Good individuals, but evidently lost when lacking in a player of better quality or confidence to lean on.
Lack of Depth in Defence
It's often easy to overlook the need for added bodies in defence, such is the way Pepe and Sergio Ramos command those two spots in central defence. But the performance against Osasuna without either of those two opened up the doors and forced another discussion about the quality in defence.
It was a little surprising that Ricardo Carvalho didn't continue at centre-back following his start last week against Real Sociedad. You need to give players like Raphael Varane these opportunities when they come along, and throwing him into the rough and tumble of Osasuna away can only be good for his development.
But then where do Madrid turn after that? What are the options when an ageing Carvalho or a young and still inexperienced Varane are not playing?
Raul Albiol is supposed to provide depth. He's at an age where he can come in and provide solid backup and experience when Pepe or Ramos are out. Most importantly, he's supposed to be one to guide Varane through games such as this.
The former Valencia centre-back did nothing of the sort. He was as lame as the attack, he didn't provide any leadership at the back and Madrid on the whole looked incredibly shaky when dealing with aerial threats inside their own penalty area.
Games such as these will come around again, and were it not for the fact that Osasuna are bottom of the league and lacking hugely in the striking department, Real Madrid could have left Pamplona with nothing.
It would have been in-part down to their attack, but it would have largely been due to the weak defence.