Real Madrid go into today’s Spanish Super Cup second-leg match against rivals Barcelona knowing a victory is the only option if they are to take the first title of the season.
Anything less will add to a disappointing start to a campaign in which Madrid are yet to win in three games, including a 3-2 defeat to Barca in the first leg at the Camp Nou on Thursday last week.
The 2-1 defeat at Getafe on Sunday night, their first league defeat this year, means Real have a single point on the board in La Liga and are already five behind Barca, who won 2-1 at CA Osasuna on the same evening.
Jose Mourinho called the defeat “unacceptable,” while refusing to blame refereeing decisions for the defeat, as he had done in the Super Cup first leg, claiming Barca’s first goal was offside.
He is looking for a response from his players, especially at dead balls, where they have conceded goals in both their league games to date.
“In the last games we have worked more than ever on defending dead-ball situations, with only two days to go until the next game [against Barca] we can’t do anymore, it’s up to the players to do their jobs,” he said after Sunday’s defeat.
One piece of good news for Madrid was the end of the summer-long transfer saga involving Luka Modric’s move to the Spanish capital from Tottenham Hotspur.
Modric was finally presented to Madrid fans on Monday, perhaps too late to make an appearance in today’s game, but the player himself has not ruled out making a debut.
“I feel good, I still have to train with the rest of the team, but I’m ready to play against Barca. I have not had games, but I have trained with the fitness coach and worked hard, and I had one game for Croatia. Hopefully I will need [only] a couple of games to get fit,” he said.
Another player that may or may not feature is Barca captain Carles Puyol, who suffered a fractured cheekbone for the fourth time in his career on Sunday in a clash with Osasuna player Roland Lamah.
Puyol, who played with a specially fitted mask a few seasons ago when carrying the same injury, may still be fit to play with protection.
His central defensive partner Gerard Pique will definitely feature and he knows the importance of the first title of the season for his side.
“It’s more for the title than the idea of winning it at the Bernabeu, it’s a trophy and the tie is finely balanced, so either side can win it. Although we are going there to try and win it, I don’t think it will influence the league, which has a long way to go,” Pique said.
On the poor start Madrid have made, Puyol had the following to say: “It’s surprising, nobody expected us to be five points ahead of them after only two games, but it means nothing.”
“They had gone lots of games without defeat and it’s Madrid, and they can go another 30 without losing. We are fighting against one of the best sides in the world so we have to be prepared,” Puyol said. “We just want to think about ourselves, we are ambitious and it would be our fourth consecutive Super Cup, and you need to win the league or cup to be in this competition, so we know how important it is.”
Tito Vilanova, with his first title as Barca manager at stake, rested both Xavi Hernandez and Pedro Dominguez in Sunday’s win and both should start today.
One place still undecided in Barca’s starting 11, after a three-match winning start, is the leftback position, which new boy Jordi Alba has been sharing with Brazilian Adriano.