With La Liga taking a break for FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifiers, RealSport takes a look at Real Madrid’s season so far.
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By numbers, it doesn’t seem so bad, but this is Real Madrid and nothing but excellence and 100% is expected or accepted by this club. Having just won a double and displaying sheer dominance in the Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup against Barcelona and Manchester United respectively, many thought Real would cruise into the sunset, treble in hand.
Zinedine Zidane has called for fans to stay calm as results will come, and since their win in the Champions League against Dortmund, Los Blancos are back to their critical ways.
Still, we need to remain calm and remember there is still a lot of the season to go. -Zidane urging fans to stay calm
Unlike in their domestic title race, Real have picked up in the Champions League right where they left off, winning. Just two games into the competition, Madrid has bagged six goals and conceded only one. Their win against APOEL was expected, but their match away to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund affirmed Real Madrid’s dominance as a European super club. The master class performance in every third of the pitch shut out the German side with authority.
Injury plague and disciplinary troubles
Madrid has not been as clinical in their domestic competition compared to their beloved Champions League competition, and injuries along with a number of yellow cards have sent the club into a frenzy.
As it stands Real have six players out due to injury, each one with a different expected time of return. To the misfortune of Madrid, these players are all pivotal to the team as Zidane's rotation policy is now well known.
|Mateo Kovacic||Knee||6 weeks|
|Gareth Bale||Calf Muscle||4 weeks|
|Karim Benzema||Hamstring||1 week|
Half of the players on Madrid's injury list do not yet have a definitive window of return making it difficult to know how far along these players may be in the recovery process. For now, those who have filled in for their counterparts have been able to pick up the slack, but being short six squad members, who would be starters at any other big team in Europe, is a challenge for Zidane to say the least.
Just seven games into the 2017-18 La Liga campaign, Real have been handed 12 yellow cards, that is 1.7 yellow cards a game, and two red cards over the same time frame. Some disciplinary actions have been dumbfounding for the club, such as Ronaldo's four match ban for his shove in the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona, leaving the Portuguese star out of the first four fixtures of the new campaign. A few weeks ago Luis Suarez was caught in a similar action but no punishment was handed down to the Barcelona striker.
Real's lack of discipline and literally kicking out at opponents as Marcelo did against Levante which saw him get sent off, is something that cannot continue if they wish to retain their league title. Marcelo was lucky to be handed a reduced sentence rather than the four game ban that may have followed.
Carrying the torch
With many senior members being sidelined due to injury we have seen the rise of a few who have seized the opportunities that have been given to them. In recent weeks Florentino Perez and the board has worked profusely to extend the contracts of many players, some which will be the future of this club.
As Madrid has looked to their bench to help win points, we take a look at three players that have surprised fans amongst many others.
A few weeks ago, Isco signed a contract extension locking him in with the club until 2022 and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The young man has been in the limelight frequently as he has featured in all of Madrid's games. It is still early days but Isco finds himself amongst Real's top scorers with two goals, which came in the same match. Unfortunately, there is no statistic to track what he does best, opening up spaces and directing traffic. His tracking back is not something you commonly find in a CAM player but his hard work has shown value. Isco will become a consistent starter for the club but resting him against lesser opponents if possible will do his health and fitness wonders.
Another Spaniard who lit up the pitch was recent addition Dani Ceballos, the 21-year-old has featured in 83-minutes of game-play but has scored two goals in one game. Ceballos' two goals came against Alaves ensuring the win for his club. Both goals showed the youngsters' awareness and recognition. Dani played 72-minutes in the win against Alaves and it won't be surprising if he adds more goals to his tally if given more playing time.
The biggest talent in Spain right now is Marco Asensio, and given his contract extension with Real, it is safe to say his club feel the same way. Asensio has already scored two goals and made two assists, one of which helped salvage a point against Valencia from a wonderful free kick. With BBC now a trio of the past, Asensio has broken through and proved he's ready to play with the big boys. The chemistry between him and Isco is one that is growing into a wonderful pairing that Zidane maybe unable to resist.
Steps for success
Coming off a double many fans came into the season with extremely high expectations, the sort of expectations Real Madrid carry year-on-year. Zidane will need all hands on deck to make sure this ship is headed in the right direction.
Players will have to stay fit and out of trouble to give Zidane multiple options on the pitch. In just 12 games this season, Madrid have suffered ten injuries, that's almost one for every match played. Everyone knows Real has great depth off the bench that allows a steady rotation and enough rest for bigger players such as Ronaldo, Bale, and Marcelo amongst others.
Real have taken a total 115 shots but only 53 have been on target, they have averaged 16.4 shots per game but with 7.6 being on goal it's no wonder why they have drawn two games and lost one. Los Blancos need to increase their rate of efficiency and get Ronaldo scoring again if they are to close the gap with Barcelona.
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