Real Madrid: Will Drama with Iker Casillas Hurt Real in the Champions League?

Thomas HallettCorrespondent IIJanuary 17, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 09:  Iker Casillas of Real Madrid CF reacts during the Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg match between Real Madrid and Celta de Vigo at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on January 9, 2013 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid appear to be focusing all their energy—whatever of it they have left—on the cup competitions and specifically the Champions League.

Jose Mourinho's clashes with Iker Casillas over the past few weeks have stolen the majority of headlines around Real Madrid, but how much good will it do when there is so much pressure on the club to capture La Decima come May?

I don't believe Jose Mourinho would go out of his way to make this team or any of his teams vulnerable to defeat. It doesn't make sense for any manager to jeopardise his position in such a way, despite both Mourinho and Florentino Perez clearly not seeing eye-to-eye.

One side of the debate might suggest that Mourinho is trying to force a rise from Casillas and his players, many of whom have not performed up to standard for most of this season. The opposing argument would state that dropping Casillas during such turbulent times would do nothing but exacerbate the problem.

That's the way we saw it the first time Mourinho relieved Casillas of his duties and placed him on the bench, with Madrid succumbing to a 3-2 loss to Malaga just before the turn of the year.

It's unsettling, and even if Mourinho has told his squad of his intentions and given them indications that all of them are in a position to be dropped, the media whirlwind surrounding the stories will continue to heap pressure on both the manager and the players.

In what is an important season at the club—however, not taking away the importance from other campaigns—confrontations such as this are unlikely to bring results in a way Mourinho intends.

The ever-growing problem is that the tension continues to rise and the divisions remain. Is the Real Madrid dressing room one which is fit to launch a strong attack on the Champions League?

I still believe they'll find it in themselves to navigate through the difficult waters of the next round against Manchester United, but the doubts remain in the minds of supporters, media and the players.

Throwing Casillas back into the starting XI for the remainder of the season is unlikely to do enough. At this stage, there is simply too much wrong with the team for it all to be corrected by returning the club captain to his rightful place between the sticks every week.

Yes, in the big matches and where a veteran mindset is needed, Casillas should always be the first-choice over Antonio Adan. If Mourinho wants to send a message to Casillas and his players by dropping the starting goalkeeper, then fine. However, there can be no excuse for doing it in the Champions League, where the source for rediscovering their purpose remains European competition.

The game is up in La Liga and Barcelona's greatest rivals this season appears to be Atletico Madrid. However, even a Radamel Falcao-led Atletico are unlikely to disrupt an undefeated Barcelona's momentum.

Does that mean Mourinho is free to tinker and experiment with his squad in the league? Absolutely not. We saw the effects of the game against Osasuna, a dull 0-0 which could have been a loss if Madrid were faced against better opposition. And that did happen when they travelled to the Costa del Sol and suffered defeat to a hugely impressive Malaga side.

Let's not forget, Real Betis are looking very good, and both they and Malaga could force Madrid to look over their shoulders with great concern.

Mourinho's team are not out of the water by any means, and even the recent 2-0 win over Valencia won't help to put the ship right.

On that night in the Copa del Rey, Cristiano Ronaldo was excellent again for large parts, as was Mesut Ozil. That's the quality and spirit that's needed if Madrid are going to win the Champions league this season. Addressing the situation with Casillas and calling a truce won't do enough.

If Madrid are to go all the way in European competition, they'll need an overhaul of the mentality that has plagued the whole of this season. It would be the best way for Mourinho to leave the club, helping to capture the 10th European Cup. But the Casillas story remains just a subplot of the wider problems at the club.