Madrid – Jose Mourinho was under more pressure on Saturday when his misfiring Real Madrid side were held to a 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Osasuna, a result which left the champions 15 points behind leaders Barcelona.
Madrid, devoid of any creativity, missed the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, who had scored five of his side's eight goals in the last two games, and their desperate state was highlighted when substitute Kaka was sent-off in the second half.
Real Madrid are on 37 points in third place, four behind Atletico Madrid and they could trail Barcelona by 18 points on Sunday if the runaway leaders defeat fifth-place Malaga.
“I liked my team's attitude, Raul Albiol and Fabio Coentrao have come in and played well and the others have done a job. It's not easy to create here, we did enough to score but we didn't make many chances,” said Mourinho.
The Portuguese coach was questioned about captain Iker Casillas, who he recently controversially dropped, but refused to say if he would be in the team on Tuesday against Valencia in the Spanish Cup.
“Casillas has done well in the last two games and we have been good defensively but it's too early to say whether he'll be playing against Valencia,” he said.
Ronaldo missed his first game after 60 consecutive league appearances with a one-match suspension while Sergio Ramos was also absent at the start of a five-game ban.
Mourinho was able to welcome back Gonzalo Higuain and Coentrao after injuries and preferred Albiol to start only his third league game of the season over Ricardo Carvalho in the centre of defence.
It was not until the 25th minute that there was a meaningful attempt on goal.
Osasuna defender Marc Beltran was alert to clear from almost on the goal-line after Higuain had rounded the goalkeeper and centred for Sami Khedira.
Angel Di Maria then shot over for Madrid while Alvaro Cejudo went close at the other end.
Jose Callejon almost surprised Andres Fernandez in the Osasuna
goal with a header that went just over on 35 minutes and Cejudo turned cleverly before blasting over.
Within a minute of the second-half, Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas was called into his first meaningful action to block a drive from Kike Sola.
Mourinho changed things around just before the hour mark, replacing Higuain with Karim Benzema and introducing Kaka for a subdued Di Maria.
However it was the side at the bottom who looked the more likely to break the deadlock when Lolo headed over from a corner and then Casillas saved a long shot from Emiliano Armenteros.
Things got worse for Madrid when Kaka received a second yellow card within 18 minutes of coming on, leaving his side a man down for the final 15 minutes.
By this stage Mourinho had already replaced the ineffective Luka Modric with Mesut Ozil but still there was no Madrid reaction.
German winger Patrick Ebert scored twice and set up the third for Oscar to help Valladolid beat Mallorca 3-1.
Ebert's return to the side was particularly welcome for Valladolid after just over a month out through injury in which his side has failed to win a game.
Sergio Garcia hit a first-half goal to give Espanyol a crucial 1-0 win over Celta Vigo and move the Barcelona side out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. – Sapa-AFP