BARCELONA — After dominating the Spanish league last season, defending champion Real Madrid was supposed to brush aside its lesser domestic rivals in this campaign and focus on winning a coveted 10th Champions League trophy.
But after losing its second league match 1-0 at Sevilla Saturday, Madrid is reeling only two days before facing Manchester City in the Champions League.
Coach Jose Mourinho says he “doesn’t have a team,” forward Cristiano Ronaldo is “sad,” and the entire club is wondering what has so quickly gone so wrong.
Through four rounds, Madrid has just one win to go with a draw and a pair of losses and already trails pacesetter Barcelona by eight points as it languishes in the middle of the standings.
Mourinho has to find a quick turnaround as Madrid plays English titleholder Manchester City Tuesday in their Champions league opener, a game that it can ill afford to lose in a challenging group that includes German champion Borussia Dortmund and Dutch team Ajax.
In his first two seasons at Madrid, Mourinho rarely blamed his players for a bad result. But he has been openly critical of his squad from week one when it slipped to a home draw with Valencia.
After its loss at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium Saturday he was brutal in his judgment of his team’s effort, saying that for many of his players “football is not a priority.”
“I am worried because since the beginning of the season we have only played well in the Spanish Supercup (vs. Barcelona), but nothing else,” said Mourinho, whose team hadn’t dropped this many points until week 15 last season.
“More than being worried about the points, what worries me at this moment is that I don’t have a team. I changed only two players at half-time, I wanted to change seven of them,” said Mourinho.
Madrid-friendly Spanish sports daily Marca’s cover on Sunday read: “Eight points from Barca in week four, Mou declares a state of alarm in Madrid.”
Barcelona, meanwhile, remained perfect through four games after Lionel Messi scored a brace to take his league-leading tally to six goals in its 4-1 rout at Getafe Saturday.
“The gap (with Madrid) is surprising,” said Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets on Sunday. “But there is still a long way to go.”
Mourinho said Madrid’s poor form predated Ronaldo’s enigmatic comments two weeks ago that he wasn’t happy with the Spanish club, sparking speculation that he was seeking a better contract or even a move to another team.
“This game wasn’t very different from the other games,” Mourinho said after the defeat in Seville. “Therefore I don’t think it has any relation with the rumor of the last two weeks.
“The problem is the attitude from minute one,” a perplexed Mourinho said. “There are very few heads who are committed and concentrated, and who have football as the priority in their lives. When you don’t have people who are committed, it’s tough. But I am the coach, and if there are people who aren’t committed it is my fault.”
In other matches Saturday, Valencia beat Celta Vigo 2-1 and Malaga downed Levante 3-1 before their respective Champions League openers against Bayern Munich and Zenit St. Petersburg. Barca is top with 12 points from four games, two ahead of second-placed Malaga. Sevilla rose to third on eight points and Real is 10th. — Agencies