Graham Hunter believes Real Madrid are targeting the Champions League rather than La Liga

Last Updated: 23/10/12 7:01pm

Real's Champions League form is relieving the pressure on Mourinho

Real Madrid have endured a torrid start to the defence of their La Liga crown - allowing arch-rivals Barcelona into an early eight-point lead.

The Bernabeu giants find themselves languishing in fourth position after early-season defeats to Getafe and Sevilla, and were in great need of Saturday's 2-0 league victory over Celta Vigo.

Despite their Catalan enemies stealing a march domestically, Jose Mourinho's men have shown promising early form in the Champions League with two wins from two seeing them top a daunting Group D.

"So long as Real are managing the task in Europe well, there'll be less pressure on Mourinho than there would normally be when trailing to Barcelona by eight points."

Graham Hunter

Spanish-based football journalist Graham Hunter feels that the money-spinning opportunities of European football are saving Mourinho from harsher criticism, with the club recently revealing severe financial worries.

Hunter told Revista: "It's a very demanding club so obviously when you're trailing in the league - and particularly if you're trailing to Barcelona - there's a degree of pressure. But there's a slightly different feel to this season.

"Real Madrid have announced recently, without much coverage, that they're in about 520m euros of global debt. That's a huge sum - almost 220m more than Barcelona or Valencia.

Importance

"They need to cut into that in the Champions League, even though their last two appearances in the semi-final earned nearly 100m euros. We're not in any way trying to say the league doesn't matter, but they're looking very hard at the importance of the Champions League.

"So long as Real are managing the task in Europe well, there'll be less pressure on Mourinho than there would normally be when trailing to Barcelona by eight points."

Guillem Balague fears Mourinho's publicity campaign for Cristiano Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or bid could also result in disharmony among the squad - with the old division lines between Portugal and Spain highlighted once more.

Balague said: "Mourinho's been speaking quite a lot to the foreign media, trying to back Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or. After Ronaldo complained of not being backed by the club, Mourinho started giving interviews pointing out that Lionel Messi has won it three times and it should be Ronaldo now.

"Iker Casillas is also a candidate and I'm not sure he likes it, but I think Mourinho has decided to give his warmth and love to Ronaldo. It's not just Casillas - it's the group of Spaniards that are left feeling that the Portuguese are benefiting in the side.

"It's an eternal conflict that will always be there as long as Mourinho is."