Real Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo is
feeling the heat just a few weeks into the season and defeat by Athletic
Bilbao on Thursday (kickoff 2000 GMT) would heap further pressure on the
Consecutive losses to Celta Vigo and Espanyol have left Real 15th in the
Primera Liga, and their bid to win a 10th European Cup got off to an
inauspicious start with a 3-0 defeat at Olympique Lyon in their opening
Champions League group game.
Having spent close to 90 million euros on five players, Real were
expected to make a flying start in their bid to avoid going a third
season without winning a major trophy.
Despite the addition of talented Brazilian youngster Robinho and his
power-packed compatriot Julio Baptista, however, Real have failed to
shine in attack.
Much of the blame has been laid at the feet of Luxemburgo, whose
preferred tactic of playing without wide players has led to a congested
midfield and made it difficult for the forwards to break down well
Leading striker Ronaldo has sprung to Luxemburgo's defence, however,
saying it is only a matter of time before his tactics pay off.
"I don't understand the criticisms of Luxemburgo," he said. "We played
the same way last season and only lost a couple of games. It seems to
have changed from being fantastic one minute to being bad the next.
"It would be a major error if we changed coach now, we've got one of the
best and the players have confidence in him. The situation isn't that
bad. We are playing well and we dominated the last match, but just
didn't have much luck in front of goal."
Real have certainly not enjoyed the rub of the green.
Celta's third goal came from a shot which television replays showed did
not cross the line, and Espanyol's winner was also controversial because
Real say that the referee blew his whistle for an infringement before
the goal was awarded.
The furore over refereeing decisions, however, cannot disguise the fact
that Real's defence has been exposed at set pieces.
"We are going to try and sort it out," Ronaldo said. "The boss is trying
to correct our mistakes and when we do that we will get back to winning
Despite his insistence that he will not change tactics Luxemburgo will
be forced to rejig his side as Baptista and centre-back Sergio Ramos are
The absence of Ramos and an injury to Ivan Helguera could give England
defender Jonathan Woodgate the chance to make his full debut over a year
after joining the club.
Bilbao beat Real home and away last season and defeated Basque rivals
Real Sociedad 3-0 in their opening match of the season before losing 2-1
at home to Malaga at the weekend.
A fourth successive defeat would really set the alarm bells ringing at