Is there ever such a thing as a welcome defeat? Bernd Schuster was doing his best to argue that case after Real Madrid were taken apart by top-flight new boys Almeria at the weekend.
"I think it is very good that we have this defeat now," said the German coach after the 2-0 loss. "It shows us that we cannot afford to put our feet up – we have to keep going. Sometimes this kind of thing has to happen. It has come at the best possible moment."
Schuster, who cancelled his player's two-day holiday and called them in for training yesterday, might not be too concerned about dropping points against Almeria who have been this season's revelation in Spain – Real were after all nine points clear going into the weekend's action.
He will, however, be worried by the way his World Cup-winning defender Fabio Cannavaro was out-classed by a former Real Madrid youth team centre-forward Alvaro Negredo who was sold by the Spanish champions last summer.
And he will have noted how toothless his side appeared in attack after Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had recovered from a midweek stomach upset to go in search of his 50th goal for Real, left the game at half-time after taking a knock on the ankle.
Madrid made no signings in the transfer window despite doubts over their strength in depth. Van Nistelrooy appears to have no effective replacement and Cannavaro looks seriously shaky without the currently injured Gabriel Heinze and Pepe either side of him.
The Italian defender was on all fours inside the six-yard box when Almeria went ahead on the quarter-hour. He slipped as Albert Crusat crossed from the left allowing Junaito to arrive at the far post and shoot past Iker Casillas in the Real goal.
Cannavaro then conceded the second-half penalty that sealed the points for Almeria when he bundled Negredo to the floor with a challenge that looked more like a judo throw than the tackle of a former Fifa World Player of the Year.
Negredo, who Real have an option to buy back during the first two years of his contract with Almeria, aided his chance of exactly that happening with this performance, topping it off by coolly sliding the penalty past Casillas.
Raul's second-half header had to be acrobatically turned away by Diego Alves and the Brazilian 'keeper was perhaps lucky to still be on the pitch after his first half assault on Sergio Ramos. Alves charged out of his penalty area clattering into Ramos and only the presence of another defender prevented the card shown from being a red. But Almeria deserved some fortune with the borderline decisions having chosen to bravely attack Madrid from the first whistle.
They are now serious contenders for finishing the season in a Uefa Cup spot and their 35-year-old manager Unai Emery is emerging as one of Europe's top young coaches.
"The main objective is to stay in this division," he said afterwards. "But there should be no limits set on how far this team can go."
Almeria (4-3-3): Alves; Bruno, Garcia, Pulido, Mane; Corona (Ortiz, 64), Melo, Juanito; M Ortiz (Soriano, 81), Negredo (Uche, 78), Crusat.
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Casillas; Salgado (Baptista, 63), Ramos, Cannavaro, Torres; Sneijder (Balboa, 74), Diarra, Guti; Raul, Van Nistelrooy (Higuain, 46), Robinho.Reuse content