Club Focus – Real Madrid – Higuain injury rocks Madrid’s season

The unwelcome news that Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain requires surgery on a herniated disc which will see him ruled out for the rest of the season has knocked the stuffing out of Real Madrid, who until now had eased back into a hectic La Liga schedule with aplomb after the winter break.

Sanitas, Real Madrid’s Medical and advisory team last night made the difficult call following a one month reassessment of the striker’s injury, in a bid to avoid surgery. Ultimately the damaging and painful nature of the problem escalated over the festive and New Year period, meaning Los Blancos start 2011 devoid of their key out and out striker.

The 23-year-old’s absence from the Santiago Bernabeu side provides Coach Jose Mourinho with plenty to think about. Higuain, boasts a prolific goal scoring return this season with ten goals in eighteen appearances. With Cristiano Ronaldo being Los Blancos’ only other invaluable contributor in terms of goals, it is left to Mourinho to decide whether to stick with the playing squad at his disposal, tinker with a new system or dip into the January transfer window.

Monday evening’s fortunate 3-2 win at near neighbours Getafe maintains Madrid’s pursuit of Barcelona at the top of La Liga, but it did expose notable cracks in the Whites armoury. It would be wrong to suggest Ronaldo in any way is a weakness to Los Blancos, though reading between the lines there could just be a weak spot. Madrid’s reliance on their inspirational Portuguese star is well documented, and now with no Higuain, this expectation is set to eclipse the norm. The former Manchester United player has the talent and match winning attributes to clinically perform on all fronts for his team this term, but if he does not there are not too many takers to step in.

Mourinho may well experiment with the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation he favours, to stretch and rotate his squad, but it would appear unlikely for Madrid’s Coach to opt against two defensive anchors in central midfield. Xabi Alonso’s almost automatic slot in the team on Monday was supplemented by potential Madrid exile Lass Diarra. The feeling among the Spanish based press is Madrid have to decrease the burden of pressure on a player like Ronaldo, and play a more fluid footballing system. Play-maker profligacy Sergio Canales is just one name who many feel Los Blancos need to give more first team football too.

Madrid’s season has seen them win rhythmically for the most part, but they are lacking the balance and connection, not team spirit, to challenge simultaneously a Barcelona at the peak of theirs powers. A Mourinho side in two years time may well be Spain’s dominant force but be prepared for the Portuguese in the meantime to continue building, and that will almost certainly not mean a January spending spree.

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