The last-32 stage of Spain's King's Cup is usually a series of forgotten fixtures that are watched by sparse crowds and conjure predictable results. Struggling Villarreal's failure to overcome 10-man third-tier side Puertollano was utterly predictable because the Yellow Submarines have forgotten how to win games and other Primera Liga leading lights like Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia all enjoyed first- leg away victories at lower division opponents.
Real Madrid were expected to do the same at third level Alcorcon. Club president Florentino Perez wants Madrid to have more box office appeal, but he did not have humiliating 4-0 defeats in mind. Madrid fielded a strong side full of internationals and the defeat has dominated the Spanish media this week, creating the types of negative headlines Madrid could do without. One newspaper said that coach Manuel Pellegrini should not remain in charge for "10 seconds more", espousing the type of knee jerk reaction which has been at the root of Madrid's recent problems. Perez claims that coach Pellegrini needs "time and calm" to succeed, sensibly adding: "The season is only two months old and we are still trying to create a team."
Madrid's players seem equally sanguine. "I thought what happened was a bad dream," said Madrid's Dutch midfielder Royston Drenthe, "but we must look ahead. We were all concentrating deeply before the match kicked off, but I don't know what happened after they scored their first goal. We'll have to do differently in our next game because if not things will get really complicated for us. "I can't believe it happened, but it's in the past now and we will have to show people we are Real Madrid against Getafe. Every player on this team wants to be successful and to play quality football."
Another humiliating result will add to the pressure on Pellegrini, but Drenthe is adamant that the right man is in charge. "The coach does a good job," he stressed. "He is clear on what he wants. It's our problem and he is very serious about what happened." Cristiano Ronaldo is still injured, though an MRI scan on Thursday showed that his ligament injury is healing and he will face further examination and is expected to return in three weeks. His side have missed him sorely, but Ronaldo remains optimistic.
"I am not a saviour," he said. "I am just a player who wants to recover to help his team. I am anxious to play, it's what I love. I know I need to be at 100 per cent before returning. I will undergo another test next week and continue training to be where I was before I got injured. I cannot wait to play. "Every defeat hurts, but the team has already recovered. What happened is already history. We need to keeps our heads held high and to focus on the next match. I am confident that we can compete for all three titles."
Second-placed Madrid hope for a return to form tonight against neighbours Getafe, who sit in eighth. The last time the pair met, the game ended in disgraceful scenes as defender Pepe was sent off and banned for 10 games for a hysterical outburst. Madrid's main league rivals are also in action tonight. Leaders Barcelona travel to Osasuna, boosted by the news that Mexican defender Rafael Marquez is about to extend his contract.
Osasuna's greatest threat is veteran striker Walter Pandiani, who has scored in five of their eight league games, but the league leaders will be confident of maintaining heir unbeaten start. Xerez hope to continue their much improved form which has seen them move off the bottom of the table against Andalusian neighbours Sevilla, who are third. Athletic Bilbao host Atletico Madrid, with both teams desperate for an upturn in fortunes.
After winning their first three games, Athletic have picked up just one point from five matches. Atletico are 17th, with just one win all season - and a new coach because of their poor form. Results matter in Spain's capital, as Pellegrini knows too well. firstname.lastname@example.org