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International Soccer - Spain

Stoppage Time: No time for sulking at Real Madrid

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

(Sports Network) - Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo made it known publicly that he was "sad" two weeks ago when he refused to celebrate after scoring two goals against Granada in a 3-0 Madrid victory.

Ronaldo said the cause of his sullen demeanor was due to "professional reasons," although he didn't elaborate beyond that.

Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has never been one to mince words, and after his side's 1-0 defeat against Sevilla this past weekend, Mourinho was way past sad.

"From the first to the last minute, we were poor," Mourinho said of his team's loss to Sevilla on Saturday. "We were bad in the first half and we were bad in the second half, too. They really deserved the win and we deserved the loss more."

The defeat leaves Madrid with only four points from its first four league games, which is the worst start to open a season for the club in a decade.

But what worries Mourinho more than the meager point total his side has accrued through four games is the overall lack of quality that has been on display.

"I worry about my team and the fact that since the start of the official season we have only played well in the Super Cup, a little bit against Valencia and a little bit against Granada," Mourinho said. "That is my concern rather than points. At this moment, I have no team."

Mourinho has a team. It is one that is loaded with talent, but one that also seems to be severely lacking direction.

With 34 La Liga matches still to play, it's certainly not time to panic. But if this worrying trend of subpar performances continues, it soon might be.

La Liga has boiled down to a two-horse race between Madrid and Barcelona over the past few seasons, and that doesn't figure to change this year.

But with Barca winning its first four games to open up an eight-point gap between the two Spanish rivals, Madrid can't afford to let the Catalans get too far away.

The next month will be key for Madrid if the team is going to turn things around and produce the kind of season that is expected from one of the world's power clubs.

A huge test against English champions Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday could be enough to lift the club from its early season malaise and serve as a wake-up call to some of Madrid's under-performing stars.

Mourinho's side then faces very winnable matches in the league against Rayo Vallecano and Deportivo La Coruna before a massive showdown at the Camp Nou against Barcelona on Oct. 7.

Madrid has had the luxury of coasting through the group stage in the Champions League in recent seasons, but this year the draw was not so kind as Los Blancos will face City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in what might be the toughest group in the competition.

On paper, Madrid is one of the most talented teams on the planet, but if the lackluster outings continue, the situation could come apart quickly.

It is Mourinho's job to light a fire under his men and pull them out of their current tailspin as soon as possible.

Ronaldo must find a way to overcome his "sadness" and step forward to be the kind of leader the club needs right now.

And the rest of the team must refocus and put the early season struggles in the past.

There is plenty of blame to be shared by everyone.

But now is not the time for sulking. It is the time to offer up a response.

09/17 14:04:41 ET

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