For a while forget about ‘that’ rant. Forget about the training ground bust up with his ‘boss’ that caused ruckus in Spanish media and further led many English journalists speculate about Jose Mourinho’s future at the Bernabeu. Sergio Ramos has been the pillar of strength for Los Blancos in their present campaign. Under the Portuguese, Madrid has become one of the best, if not the best, counter-attacking team in the world. However, defence has been exposed many a times this season, not only by Barcelona but smaller teams as well.
Jose Mourinho has always been particular with his strong back four. We have seen his greatest teams – Porto, Chelsea, and Inter - have reached the zenith based on the pyramid of a strong defensive back four. Without disrupting the cavalier approach that Madrid endorses, Jose has tried to build a team on his trademark template.
Jose’s faith in Ramos’ versatility has been sealed; the 25-year-old has become a true inspiration for others to follow. Madrid started the season with Sergio Ramos at right back, Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho at centre and Marcelo or Coentrao on the defensive left wing. Carvalho’s form dipped after he sustained injury early this season and the Madrid boss keeping high faith in Ramos gave him the duty to lead the defense from centre, though he had options in Raul Albiol. The Sevilla-man didn’t disappoint. Rather, his towering presence galvanized Real Madrid to a great extent. He showed great quality in distribution from the back and demonstrated fortitude and character.
Now that, Carvalho has returned to good form (performance against Barcelona & Zaragoza) the question remains, should Ramos be shifted back to his natural position?
Well, Jose has options at right back position too. Arbeloa, Coentrao, Lass and Altintop – all can play at right back. Each has a different profile. However, none of them has been consolidated and the technical headache remains for Mourinho.
The problem is if he continues to play at centre-back, Spain national Coach Vicente Del-Bosque might feel uncomfortable. The Spanish set up already has the Catalan duo – Puyol and Pique- at the defensive heart, so any addition replacing them is certainly not entertained. The Madrid man hasn’t played at right back since October. The ramifications can be damning, though Ramos should feature in Euro – be it at right back or at centre.
Good news for Cristiano Ronaldo and Madrid, as fans vociferously chanted his name after the final whistle against Zaragoza. Ronaldo was booed earlier by the Madrid fans for his lackluster performance, especially against Barcelona as fans doubted his attitude and commitment.
Ronaldo hasn't changed his game style. He just changed his attitude. He tracks back, covers more ground, tackles and makes more simple passes. Against Mallorca he dropped deep thrice to help the defence out.
Mourinho gave advice to his star performer "If you work as here, no one will touch."
Ronaldo keenly following his mentor's biblical speech demonstrated excellent attitude against Barcelona (both the legs of Copa Del Rey), Bilbao and Zaragoza where he helped the defence, covering a lot of ground.
A stat to justify the above claim- In the last five games he has averaged 4.4 recoveries per game, while the mean was 2.7 to Mallorca.
His contribution going forward was never any doubt as he scored against Barcelona in both the legs of Cup tie, brace against Bilbao and one against Zaragoza.
As.com notes- "The numbers speak of a Christian more committed defensively. Take 69 recoveries (47 accumulates in the league, as Khedira), only six less than in the entire 2010-11 (75)."
Real Madrid are seven points clear at the top of the table from Barcelona. Madrid can afford to lose another El-Clasico, don’t they? Amidst the controversy surrounding Jose's future, Sergio Ramos & Cristiano Ronaldo is leading the White troops to glory.
Question for the readers – Can Barcelona close the gap with Madrid & challenge for the title or the title for Madrid is just a foregone conclusion?
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @Saikat_SAnchor
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