Rodriguez starting to make Real Madrid mark

Reuters, Thursday 18 Sep 2014

Real Madrid
Real Madrid's James Rodriguez scores his side's fourth goal during the Champions League Group B soccer match between Real Madrid and Basel at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday Sept. 16, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Expectations were unsurprisingly sky high when Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez joined Real Madrid from Monaco after top scoring with six goals at the 2014 World Cup.

Real, who play at Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga on Saturday, snapped up the golden boot winner for a fee of around 80 million euros ($103 million) and fans were eager to see the goals flowing from the boot of the gifted 23-year-old.

However, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti is having to reorganise his team after the exits of midfielders Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria and Rodriguez, who is known by his first name James, has taken time to settle.

Rodriguez scored in the Spanish Super Cup first leg against Atletico Madrid last month but it was his performance against FC Basle in the Champions League on Tuesday, when he netted Real's fourth goal in a thumping 5-1 win, that suggested he may be finding his feet at his new club.

Rodriguez typically plays in a roving role in the central area behind Real's three-pronged attack of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

Against Basle he appeared to be involved a lot more than in the previous games and was possibly the man of the match as Real went some way towards putting last weekend's 2-1 La Liga defeat at home to Atletico behind them.

"I played a good match," Rodriguez, whose boyish good looks mean he will be an integral part of Real's marketing strategy, told reporters at the Bernabeu.

"I think everything came off for us and as a group we did everything well," he added.

"We hope to continue like this and keep scoring goals. This match gives us confidence for what lies ahead."

Perfect Record 

Real's reverse to champions Atletico was their second La Liga defeat on the trot and they are mired down in 13th place with three points from three games, already six behind early leaders and arch rivals Barcelona.

Real have won seven of their last eight matches against the promoted Depor in all competitions and need to follow up on Tuesday's success against Basle to help dispel doubts about their title credentials.

Barca, meanwhile, are the only team with a perfect record as they prepare for a trip to Valencia to play Levante on Sunday. They also won their opening Champions League fixture of the season, a 1-0 victory at home to Apoel on Wednesday.

Atletico, who lost 4-1 to Real in last term's Champions League final, slipped to a 3-2 defeat at Olympiakos Piraeus on Tuesday and need to pick themselves up for Saturday's game at home to Celta Vigo.

It is not clear whether Atletico's Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic, who joined from Bayern Munich in the close season, will be available after he suffered a broken nose in the Olympiakos game and was due to have surgery on Thursday.

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