Defeat at Malaga on Saturday has dashed any hopes Real Madrid has of defending their La Liga title and they urgently need to find their form before Manchester United’s Champions League visit on February 12.
Jose Mourinho’s decision to drop goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas for the 3-2 reverse was still sending out shockwaves on Sunday and the defeat had left an "insurmountable" gap to make up on unbeaten leaders Barcelona, according to the Portuguese coach. Real is 16 points behind Barca after 17 matches and seven adrift of second-placed Atletico Madrid.
When they return from the Christmas break they need to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit at home to Celta Vigo in the last 16 of the King’s Cup and elimination would leave the Champions League as the only competition they can realistically hope to win this term. Mourinho justified benching Casillas by suggesting inexperienced No 2 Antonio Adan was on better form than the 31-year-old Spain international, a fixture between the posts for more than a decade and hugely popular with the fans.
Mourinho dismissed a question about whether he feared for his job after the Malaga reverse which followed last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Espanyol.
"If I sense that the players have lost their desire I am too honest to continue in a losing battle. But the players have desire, they showed they still have desire. They played well enough to win against Espanyol, they played well enough to win today. They didn’t have any luck and things turned out badly."