Club Focus – Real Madrid – Whites ready for Catalan test as investigation looms

A UEFA investigation aimed at four Real Madrid players and their Coach Jose Mourinho following accusations of deliberately incurred red cards in Tuesday’s 4-0 Champions League thumping of Ajax, has hardly been ideal preparation for Los Blancos to lock horns with eternal foes Barcelona, in Monday night’s ‘El Clasico’.

The dismissals for time-wasting for Spanish duo Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso, which were almost identical, mean both players will miss the club’s final European group game, hence freeing their services for the knockout stages of the competition. Footage apparently showed secret touchline notes being forayed between reserve goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and Real staff, allegedly managerial orders by Mourinho to be passed to the two players in question. Ramos and Alonso were seemingly happy to accept their red cards from Scottish referee Craig Thomson, and the whole situation has triggered a sea of controversial hype surrounding the Santiago Bernabeu outfit – unjust or not.

Football’s top governing body has indeed a right to investigate. Even though the result on the night could not be questioned with Madrid taking Dutch masters Ajax to the sword with another masterful display of attacking brilliance engineered by the eccentricity of Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo – who claimed two goals. Los Blancos have conveniently swept the issue under the carpet ahead of Monday night’s potential early season title decider. But if the allegations are found to be true, then surely it should be classed as an illegal footballing step against the morals of the game? Although, to maintain consistency in the wider context, marks of footballing manipulation if it is proved to be from Tuesday suggests elements of simulation should also be punished equally as hard. The stubborn arrogance of Madrid’s controlling hierarchy have pleaded they have not put a foot wrong in the matter, rather predictably.

However, the attention now swiftly turns to the Nou Camp as Los Blancos face the toughest test yet of their pedigree and progress under Mourinho. Twenty-five games unbeaten this term will count for little if Real do not muster a result against their bitter rivals on away soil but will a week of clouded media attention and towing and throwing of questioning affect the Whites preparation?

With Mourinho at the helm, from the outset it looks like his control of his players is immaculate and the trust and respect they deliver to him remains unrivalled, which can be seen as the poignant point between past failings at the Bernabeu and present success – certainly the grounds behind how Madrid will not be affected. The esteem Mourinho collects and thrives on will allow Los Blancos players the chance to forget the pragmatisms of midweek and focus on the seasons crunch encounter.

Real Madrid trained at their Valdebebas headquarters this morning, behind closed doors, but the team which has donned the White colours with aplomb this term looks better placed than their predecessors to claim a famous scalp at the hands of the old enemy. The last win was a Julio Baptista inspired 1-0 victory over three years ago, just two days before Christmas. Incidentally, Madrid have lost their last four games to Pep Guardiola’s team – who may not have received the remarkable plaudits of old this term, but nevertheless have still been sweeping aside the rest of La Liga with style this season.

Madrid are due a first El Clasico scalp since early 2008, but as is the norm in Spain they may have to battle the political ties of the Catalan city, in addition to the footballing attire of Guardiola’s men to return to the Spanish capital with three invaluable points. Sunday’s elections in Catalonia – the reason the clash of Spain’s top two has been deferred to Monday night due to security concerns, could see a new nationalist government in Barcelona – a step closer to the political position of Real Madrid, rather than the socialist party, traditionally a mainstay in Catalonia. Maybe it is an omen, that Los Blancos could hold an advantage over their great rivals come Monday if the predicted political shake-up falls the same way as football destiny.

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