For the most part it’s been pretty smooth sailing for Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti this season. The reigning Club World Cup and European champions ran riot over their opposition heading into the winter break, winning 22 straight matches in all competitions from late September until the end of December.
But during the first game back from holiday, Los Blancos were handed their first defeat in months by a resurgent Valencia. Since the setback to Los Che, Ancelotti’s side have been knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Atletico Madrid and have looked less dominant during the league campaign.
It seems ridiculous to say that a team which has won five matches in a row in La Liga is ‘faltering’, but Madrid have not matched the height of play they showcased prior to the New Year.
Recent results look labored and there are hints of player unrest within the squad.
Some have pointed at Carlo Ancelott’s reluctance to rotate his squad as a reason for the team’s performances of late. Others believed selfishness and jealousy has finally returned into the Madrid locker room, something that has gone missing since Ancelotti’s arrival at the beginning of last season.
Questions are being asked by the Spanish media of the relationship between superstar Gareth Bale and his Madrid teammates. The Welshman has been called “selfish” and his decision making has been scrutinized in recent weeks.
While Ancelotti has quelled those rumors, there still appears to be an underlying tension within the squad.
Now, with Real Madrid preparing to face off against city rivals Atletico Madrid this weekend at the Vicente Calderon, their manager has been hit with fresh adversity.
Midfielder James Rodriguez was ruled out for two months with a broken foot following last night’s 2-1 victory over Sevilla.
During the same contest, Sergio Ramos was replaced after only nine minutes for what is understood to be a hamstring injury. The 28-year-old centre-back has already been ruled out of Saturday’s Madrid derby.
And during the second half, match referee Iglesias Villanueva issued starting left-back Marcelo a yellow card for a bad foul on Sevilla’s Vitolo. The booking means the Brazilian defender will miss the important match for Madrid this weekend.
As they say: ‘When it rains, it pours’.
Real Madrid are reportedly going to protest the Marcelo booking. But in all likelihood the club will be without the services of the influential defender, as well as Ramos and James.
So after hesitating to rotate his squad for the majority of this season, Ancelotti will have to turn to Madrid’s lesser used players for what will undoubtedly be another intense derby encounter.