Club Focus – Real Madrid – Los Blancos ease home ahead of European test

Real Madrid stuck to the task in hand and completed a comfortable La Liga assignment on Saturday night. Jose Mourinho’s men dismissed a timid Levante side 2-0 in a contest the Portuguese believed would mentally test his players.

First half strikes from Frenchman Karim Benzema and a goal line finish by Ricardo Carvalho rounded off a focused performance, which momentarily saw the Whites go within two points of leaders Barcelona at the top of the table – until the Catalans extended the deficit back to five points with a marginal home scalp over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

The win which ended the away side’s three match winning streak was also a landmark for Manager Mourinho, as he completed his 148th home game without defeat, stretching back an incredible nine years.

With Madrid’s crucial second round Champions League clash away to Lyon on Tuesday dominating the back pages of the Spanish capital’s press, Mourinho lauded his team’s professional attitude to maintain their impressive La Liga form. He said: “I liked that my team played a serious match. These games ahead of Champions League matches can be complicated because players may focus more on the European competition. The team played well and were very focused. We knew Levante would make it tough. They were organised in defence, but we scored early and had things under control. Winning and resting players is what mattered.”

Los Blancos’ trip to the Stade de Gerland rekindles an unwelcome moment in not just Real Madrid’s 2009/2010 season but in the club’s boastful history. Les Gones gunned down Madrid at exactly the same Champions League stage last season, which in turn ruled out the prospect of the club winning a tenth European Cup title. With the final taking place at Santiago Bernabeu, it was particularly hard to take for the fans.

Lyon’s 2-1 aggregate win has not been forgotten in the Spanish capital, and although Mourinho was shepherding his then Inter Milan to the title that year – the Portuguese knows all too well how the Real Madrid faithful are still hurting. “Ever since we drew Lyon, we have been studying and learning about them. Real Madrid have two barriers to break down against Lyon. It’s been years since Madrid made it through to the last 16 and it’s because they have never beaten Lyon. I would like to know if Lisandro, Briando or Delgado will be playing. We have to study all the possibilities and be prepared for anything and everything.”

Attentions now turn solely to midweek as Real Madrid will look to make it through to the last 16 for the first time since 2002, when a Zinedine Zidane inspired Los Blancos went all the way to the final and secured their ninth European crown in Glasgow.

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