Sport Soccer

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Mourinho needs Rams spirit ahead of crunch derby

Pete Jenson

The potential is there for a script so cruel even Jose Mourinho's worst enemies would not have written it.

After the 4-1 thumping in Dortmund, the Real Madrid coach must lift his side to play Atletico Madrid tomorrow knowing that, while La Liga is long gone, defeat to Real's city rivals would be their first in 14 years and hand the title to Barcelona, providing they beat Athletic Bilbao.

If there is no subsequent glorious comeback against the German side on Tuesday, the man brought in to topple Barca domestically and lift Real Madrid's 10th European Cup would have failed at both in the space of four days.

The talk yesterday in Madrid was not just of derbies but of Derby County. Real Madrid lost 4-1 to Derby at the old Baseball Ground in the 1975-76 European Cup second round, Charlie George scoring a hat-trick for the Rams. However, Milan Miljanic's side beat Derby 4-1 over 90 minutes in the second leg at the Bernabeu and in extra-time Santillana made it 5-1 and to steer Real through.

If there are to be heroics next week, much will depend on Cristiano Ronaldo. Xabi Alonso is likely to be rested tomorrow. So much of the weight of Real's midfield rests on his shoulders and his jaded display played a big part in the heavy defeat.

Pepe, not for the first time, was no match for Robert Lewandowski. One of Mourinho's biggest calls in his three seasons at Real has been to put his faith in the defender.

Another big Mourinho decision has been not to bring in a centre-forward despite seeming to always doubt the ability of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema. Lewandowski's brilliance on Wednesday was a reminder of how those decisions looked flawed.

There were cheers of "Chelsea, Chelsea" from German supporters as Mourinho got back on the team bus in Dortmund. The climax to the season is being played out to ever-louder whispers that he will be at Stamford Bridge next season.

How he needs his current team and supporters behind him in the next four days – not to mention one of Chelsea's possible future signings, Radamel Falcao, having an off day in tomorrow's derby.

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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