There's hardly any enthusiasm about Florentino Pérez remaining as Real president so he will buy popularity in the usual way - by spending oodles of cash this summer...
Atletico Madrid's Copa Del Rey win over Real on Friday wasn't just about short-term glory, says Tim Stannard, but a chance to build for better things ahead...
The sixth Clásico of the season on Saturday afternoon was supposed to be the one that didn't matter a jot. Barcelona are 16 points ahead in a title race José Mourinho gave up on way back in December, whilst Real Madrid simply need to make sure nobody of vague importance gets injured ahead of Manchester United on Tuesday.
Although the heady euphoria of Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the Camp Nou that puts Real Madrid into a final against Atlético Madrid has local heads all giddy and giggly, the achievement won't look so hot at the end of the season if the campaign ends limply with a last-16 knock-out in Europe and a third-place finish in la Liga behind the club's two biggest rivals. Indeed, there's no guarantee of a victory in that Copa del Rey shoot-out with Atlético more robust, professional and spookily resistant than for years now.
The chances are that Saturday's game is the last thing that José Mourinho wants, an encounter that Madrid originally wanted parked on a Friday night to give as much rest time before heading to Old Trafford. Playing a reserve team - which will still include €100m of talent in Kaká and Luke Modric - is all well and good if the opponents are a side like Getafe, but getting turned over by Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabéu is never going to be completely acceptable even under fairly comprehensible circumstances.
It would arguably put a bit of a dent in the huge boost in confidence Tuesday's win gave to a previously maudlin Madrid, who travelled to the Catalan capital at 1-1 in the tie, the exact same position in the Champions League, a point that would not have been lost on Sir Alex Ferguson, who watched from the stands.
All season, cheerleading local papers have had slim pickings to work with after a Champions League group stage from Madrid that was hardly commanding in comparison with last season and a lamentable league campaign that sees five defeats and two draws away from home.
It's no real wonder that Marca were besides themselves on Thursday declaring the Real Madrid players to be heroes, without questioning where such supposed bravery was in defeats to Granada, Sevilla, Betis, Málaga and Betis. 'Well paid, previously underperforming players who gave two hoots in one particular game' may have been a more apt summary of what happened in Barcelona, in a clash that saw renowned big-game bottler Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in his sixth consecutive match against Barça at the Camp Nou.
Under most normal circumstances, Barcelona would have shrugged off Tuesday's loss going into the next Clásico with the feeling that bad days happen to every club and oh, by the way, 16 points. Unfortunately, the Catalan club have been having too many bad days of late with Barça having conceded goals 12 matches in a row and having run out of ideas and ingenuity in key games against Milan and now Madrid.
Barcelona fandom has always tended to fluctuate between wild, over-the-top euphoria and absolute doom and gloom. The latter is very much resident in town this week with the club's own local papers suggesting that the Madrid performance reflects a pattern, rather than a one-off result.
Most concerns have focused on assistant coach Jordi Roura, who is standing in for Tito Vilanova, still in New York receiving treatment for his illness. The biggest criticism is not that Plan B or C isn't working for the club, it's that Barça aren't even trying them out, with frustration that David Villa, a footballer fairly adept at scoring goals in key games, is still being frozen out in big matches.
Unlike the English media, which has several scandals to chew over at any one team amongst five or six big clubs, the Spanish press just has two sides which sell papers or get people tuning in to gabfests. Two months of bad results in the Premier League are equivalent to two games for Madrid or Barcelona, who are only ever a few short minutes from triumph or disaster.
This week, Madrid proved that when their focus is in place the side is still a force to be reckoned with. What's unknown with Barcelona at the moment, is whether the club is going through a natural dip in form that coincides with challenges concerning the day-to-day management of the side, or are having serious tactical problems.
Saturday's Clásico will go some way in answering this. A half-speed Real Madrid could get the better of a fully-staffed Barcelona to really put the Catalan club into crisis mode. Or the old Barcelona may well reappear after a siesta to increase the gap at the top of the table to the third-placed side to 19 points, and give themselves a timely reminder of what the team is capable of doing before the AC Milan re-match.
Ultimately, the result of the weekend's clash is fairly unimportant in terms of the narrative in the league. Instead, it's the level of performance of both sides that is going to be key with the two teams for once having other matters on their mind than each other.
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter
Couldn't agree more - Barca have really missed decisive action from the sideline, something Tito had provided earlier in the season - Roura doesn't look up for or up to that. They are always a tad open at the back so not overly worried about the defence, much more worried about the toothless attack. Still, a season where they wrap the league up early can hardly be called a poor one!!- billysboots