Real Madrid hoping hostile Mourinho helps catch Barca

With half a season still to go in the Spanish league, Real Madrid may well be counting on coach Jose Mourinho's hostile personality to give it the push it needs to overcome leader Barcelona.

Mourinho has alienated just about everyone in Spanish football, just as he did in Italy with Inter Milan and in England with Chelsea. But he won league titles in those countries, and now he will have to lead Madrid through a near-perfect stretch to overturn Barcelona's four-point lead.

Mourinho and Madrid, coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw with Almeria, will get their chance to close the gap on Sunday against Mallorca.

Barcelona, however, has won 13 straight going into Saturday's game against Racing Santander and is on course to set a new league points record. Two more wins would also see it match its best ever league winning streak of 15 straight after seeing a club record 28-game unbeaten run snapped Wednesday in a 3-1 cup loss to Real Betis.

While it's been mostly easy for Barcelona, things haven't been so for Mourinho during his first six months in the Spanish capital.

Director general Jorge Valdano criticized Mourinho for leaving Karim Benzema on the bench to start the match against Almeria after having said the Spanish club was only looking to land a striker on-loan to finish out the season with Gonzalo Higuain injured.

"I already talked about a (striker) in the preseason. And I talked about a (striker) when we knew Higuain wouldn't recover in time. In the last few days, who's talking about a (striker)? Not me," Mourinho said. "I'm too old for receiving messages through the press. I make the team, the decisions are mine."

Thursday's edition of AS newspaper implied Mourinho would look to break his four-year deal and leave Madrid at the end of the season as everyone bears down on the volatile figure. Even the referee's committee has asked that Mourinho be sanctioned for criticism leveled after the Almeria draw. Mourinho already served a one-game European ban for deliberately instructing players to get red cards, and he also was suspended for two domestic games for protesting.

Mourinho escaped punishment after celebrating a goal in front of an opponent's bench at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium earlier this year.

"I don't doubt the honesty of the referees, but some things are fairly obvious," Mourinho said about disputed penalties that were not called against Almeria. "We already talked about this a couple of months ago — there's a rule for me and a rule for the rest. I don't expect that to change."

Even the Spanish football federation made a critical remark about Mourinho's treatment of the referees and it had to quickly retract the line from its Copa del Rey preview after drawing the ire of Madrid. The federation blamed the release on an intern.

Mourinho's news conferences have often ascended into tense exchanges with journalists, while opposing fans have gone as far as to chant "Die Mourinho, die!"

Still, Madrid captain Iker Casillas believes Mourinho is unaffected by all the distractions.

"His intention is to stay on and the intention of the club is that he stays for a long time," Casillas said. "We've got a young team and he knows it can bear fruit over the long-term. He loves the city and the club."

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi continue their chase of Hugo Sanchez's record 38 goals in a season with Ronaldo at 22 after 19 games and Messi on 18.

Barcelona remains without the injured Daniel Alves, while captain Carles Puyol should return to anchor the defense after a shaky performance against Betis. Injury-prone forward Jeffren Suarez injured a leg in training Thursday and will be sidelined for five weeks, the Catalan club said.

Barcelona leads the league with 52 points, four more than Madrid with 48. Villarreal is third with 39 points, followed by Valencia with 37 and Espanyol with 34.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas