Real Madrid are seven points behind runaway
league leaders and arch rivals Barcelona but their coach Wanderley
Luxemburgo insisted the Spanish giants could still finish the season as
Real Madrid have a perfect record in the league since Luxemburgo made
his surprise arrival in the Spanish capital on December 30.
"This was one of our best games," said the former Brazil national coach
in the wake of Real's 3-1 win over Real Mallorca on Sunday.
"We played 90 intense minutes. The first half I really liked the way
that we played tactically. The team worked as a group and in unison.
"We controlled the first half completely, and it was only bad luck that
we went into half time at 1-1 thanks to a fluke free kick.
"In the second half we steped up to win the game. I really liked the
poise of the team," said Luxemburgo.
He caused a surprise by naming Denmark midfielder Thomas Gravesen in the
starting line-up but the former Everton player, who only joined Real
from the Premiership two weeks ago, justified Luxemburgo's faith in him.
"I liked what he did. he played with intensity, like everyone did, and
covered everything," reflected Luxemburgo.
Gravesen made his presence felt in the midfield as well as at the back,
and his commitment to the Real cause showed as he took just 18 minutes
to earn his first yellow card in Spain.
However, Luxemburgo was not quite so pleased with some of his other
Ronaldo was clearly angry with Luxemburgo, who can take some credit for
discovering and developing the three-times World Player of the Year when
he was a teenager back in his native Brazil, after being taken off seven
minutes from the whistle.
"If Ronaldo was angry with being substituted, that's his problen. I
don't care whether players are angry when they are taken off. If they
don't like it, that's their problem, not mine," responded Luxemburgo
Nevertheless, Luxemburgo does have a dilemma ahead of next Sunday's game
Does he stick with his petulant compatriot, who has not been firing on
all cylinders this season despite finding the net 11 times in the league,
or does he opt for the ever-reliable England striker Michael Owen?
Owen has been on the bench for the last four games but the former
Liverpool player has quickly become a favourite with Real fans for his
100 per cent commitment.
The Real squad made a joint promise to club president Florentino Perez,
in the wake of last week's humiliting Cup exit to second division
Valladolid, that they would be leaders by the end of March.
However, Luxemburgo still has to resolve who is going to score the goals
that is going to get them back into pole position.
Critics have also been quick to point out that although Luxemburgo has
notched up victories over Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid, Real Zaragoza
and now Real Mallorca, all four teams are in the bottom half of the
Champions League contenders like Valencia and Sevilla, as well as league
leaders Barcelona, also have to be overcome in the coming months if Real
are to stand a realistic chance of lifting a record 30th Spanish league