With the 20th week of games for the Spanish league underway, both of Madrid's teams find themselves looking for answers. In Chamartín, Real Madrid have suddenly fallen back down to Earth after their long unbeaten streak, and it will be interesting to see if Zinedine Zidane can get them back off the ground this week against Real Sociedad. La Real (Sociedad) has proven to be a thorn in the side of all the leading La Liga clubs the last couple of years, most recently giving Barcelona a tough challenge to even come away with points.
On the Manzanares, Atlético Madrid failed to secure three points on the road against an Alavés side that sits low in the table, but remained a puzzle for Diego Simeone's men. This is the second time the two have played each other, each time the sides have tied and each time Alavés has looked like the better team. Playing up in the Basque Country, Los Rojiblancos failed to produce any real chances of netting goals while the hosts challenged goal keeper Miguel Montoya with a number of close calls that either needed to be swatted away or hit the woodwork.
Ironically, it was Aleti that had the best chance to win, as Nico Gaitan has the goalie one-on-one yet couldn't get around him, losing possession on what should gave been a sure goal. No doubt Cholo Simeone will being fuming all week and letting his players know how badly they let this one slip away.
Tracking back to the northside of town and Zinedine Zidane's men, many are looking for answers. If they haven't hit the panic button yet, then for sure their finger is right above it. They were knocked out of the Copa del Rey competition by Celta Vigo midweek, and although it's a competition that has never held much importance for Los Blancos, it no doubt has been a blow to their once invincible pysche.
Making matters worse is how Cristiano Ronaldo has looked uncharacteristically mortal since Real's victory in the Club World Cup in December. Zidane has tinkered with using him as a number 9 center forward, no doubt trying to get him goals while lessening his workload, but it may be time to scrap that idea. Zidane may want to take a page from a baseball manager's playbook and give his star a rest, let him catch his breath and recenter himself. As much as it may unsettle Ronaldo, it could save his - and Real Madrid's - season.
Photo: Flickr/Dan Farrimond