Real Madrid followed its Spanish-record, 40-game unbeaten streak with a pair of losses, first to Sevilla and then to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey. So it was a nervous Madrid that took to the field against Malaga, and edged through 2-1 thanks to two goals from Sergio Ramos, who has now scored eight goals this season (more than Gareth Bale’s seven).
But the team did not play well, and as it clung on at the end, boos rang out around the Bernabeu.
“It's in the difficult moments that we need the fans to be behind us, not kicking us when we are down,” Ramos, the club's captain, said. “We know how our fans are and we like the way they are. The objective is that we all take this forward together."
Coach Zinedine Zidane had plenty to ponder after the game, as Marcelo and Luka Modric both went off injured. Both could miss up to a month, which would mean them missing the Champions League last-16 first leg against Napoli. AS reported that 19 members of the Madrid squad have reported a total of 26 different injuries this season.
“We’ve got lots of games coming up and we also have lots of injuries,” said Zidane, who also watched Ronaldo limp off at the end.
Ronaldo hit the post against Malaga and his form, or lack of it, has been dominating the Madrid media this week. He’s not scored a league goal from open play since November, and he has scored three in his last six games in Spain. That’s almost a drought, by his standards.
"Cristiano, uphill January," was the AS headline last week, with his current run his worst in January since his first season back in 2009-2010. Spanish pundits are asking if this is just a slump, or the start of a decline. Real Madrid played better as a collective in the Copa del Rey win over Sevilla–without Ronaldo–compared to the Sevilla loss in which he played. As the season enters its decisive phase, the Ronaldo debate will intensify.