The week in five words
“We're stayin' alive, stayin' alive”
What went well
It’s been a tight trousers, squeaky voices Bee Gees week at the Santiago Bernabéu with Real Madrid attempting to stay alive in both La Liga and the Champions League, despite the side’s attack being Harry Redknapp-style down-to-bare-bones.
Sunday’s Marca had praise for the ‘Prince of Bale-air’ after another headed effort for Bale, the ninth of the season in a campaign.
Even James Rodríguez was forced into the starting line-up against Real Sociedad on Saturday, matters are that dire. And that is a true sign of the times considering the low opinion Zinedine Zidane appears to hold of the Colombian midfielder.
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were sidelined at the weekend against La Real after suffering leg muscle problems. But despite this apparent handicap, Madrid are still in the running in both competitions. And this is thanks in part to Gareth Bale who is currently having to earn his huge amount of corn by pulling the team through both campaigns.
Neither performances were particularly pretty up in the Etihad or San Sebastian, and only one goal was scored in two games. But the gritty results mean that Real Madrid will be favourites in the reverse fixture against Manchester City and are in a position to take advantage, should both Barcelona and Atlético Madrid slip up in the final two games in La Liga.
Benzema is already on fairly thin ice considering his various off-the-field legal issues. And that’s not mentioning the driving bans.
Losing Ronaldo would be challenging enough but also having Benzema sidelined at the business end of the campaign for Madrid is very bad news indeed. And there is no guarantee that either will be in action on Wednesday in Bernabéu for the Manchester City.
The fact that a Castilla player, Borja Mayoral, lead the line rather than Jesé against Real Sociedad in a still crucial league game suggests that Zidane is planning for the worst. And that’s not surprising considering stories of Ronaldo taking stem cells and clambering into his car through the boot after a visit to a Madrid clinic in the hunt for a miracle cure.
The other big worry line on Zidane’s footballing face is that Bale is not the most reliable figure in terms of fitness with the Welshman only managing to start just over half of Madrid’s league games this season.
Quote of the week
“Very good” - those were the two words uttered by Ronaldo to waiting fans outside the team’s training ground on Sunday. And that’s the only topic that is going to matter to the Madridista massive ahead of Wednesday’s game.
The need-to-know facts
- The headed effort from Bale saw Real Madrid racking up the team’s fourth highest tally in La Liga ever with 105. The record to beat is 121 from 2011-12. And that would be impressive with two games left.
- Real Madrid remain unbeaten away from home in 2016 in La Liga, a streak of 10 matches.
- Bale has scored more headed goals than any other player in the top five European leagues this season, with nine.
Video/GIF of the week
Winner of the week
‘Marca’ popped up with the headline of the week although there was close competition with the “James - 000” Bond-themed effort during the week on Rodríguez. The winning entry from Sunday’s edition had praise for the ‘Prince of Bale-air’ after another headed effort for Bale, the ninth of the season in a campaign in which he has racked up 19 goals from 22 league appearances.
But the flip side of that tremendous statistic is what the player and Madrid in turn could have produced, had the Welshman been fully fit through the whole campaign.
Loser of the week
So the club must have taken fairly dim few of the footballer both going to a physiotherapist let go by the club last summer - ignoring the current medical team in the process - and even putting the image of the meeting on Instagram. It’s either a sign of impunity from Benzema or a stunning lack of judgment.
Considering the footballer’s recent track record, a bit of both seems most likely.