Just in case you were too busy celebrating, buying gifts, or preparing dinners these past few days, which by the way is perfectly understandable, I will take the liberty of reminding you that over the weekend Barcelona may have just sealed their La Liga title with a 0-3 rout of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was a tough mid day for “los merengues” who saw a pretty decent first half completely crumble with an awful second half performance. Although it is true that many things could have been different had Cristiano Ronaldo been able to stay on side in a goal called back in the second minute. However that was not the only missed opportunity for either team in the first by any chance.
It was actually a sign of things to come as the first half saw Karim Benzema in seemingly his only positive contribution to his side with a header that hit off the post and out. As well as Keylor Navas playing the role of team saviour in pair of chances where he denied Paulinho of the glory. In the end weak mid field play by Madrid particularly from a highly criticized Kovacic opened the door for Barcelona to march freely down the pitch. Having Luis Suarez finish a great Rakitic run that covered nearly the length of the pitch straight down the middle with a stop on the foot of Sergi Roberto for an assist. Things quickly went from bad to worse as Carvajal committed a hand ball in the penalty area to have himself sent off. Giving Messi an easy 2-0 penalty. Aleix Vidal would come from the back to finish out the game with a strong strike and a little help from Keylor Navas.
Where Real Madrid stand in La Liga?
With this La Liga’s outlook is as follows: Barcelona on top with 45, Atletico second at 36 having suffered their first loss this weekend against another Catalan team. Followed by Valencia at 34 and Madrid at 31 with one less game. At the very least Madrid would be 12 points behind Barcelona to finish out the first half of the season. That’s 4 games that Barcelona would have to drop without Madrid losing a single point for Madrid to even have a chance! Although 4th place in the league and a Champions League second round birth does not sound that bad. It’s safe to say they are sounding the alarms in “La Casa Blanca”.
Zinedine Zidane was highly questioned over his decisions regarding the starting 11. Specifically sending out Kovacic in favour of Isco or not having a replacement at all for Karim Benzema. Here is what he had to say:
“I am here to chose and make decisions. I will not regret anything. I will not give an explanation as to why Isco was a reserve. I make decisions as a manager. The decision was Kovacic on the pitch and Isco on the Bench”
It’s easy to criticize a managers decisions after the game knowing the outcome they came to have. However it is still difficult to say exactly what Zidane’s thought process was before the match. Isco has arguably been one of the most consistent players on the squad especially in Cristiano Ronaldo’s early absence. Him and Ascencio really stepped into bigger roles. However since the Ballon d’Or winner’s return it seems Zidane doesn’t want anybody upstaging him. To make matters worse Isco did not even see the pitch. He instead saw Marco Ascencio and an ever inconsistent and injury prone Gareth Bale picked in his place!
With La Liga lost can Real find comfort in the Champions League?
The numbers don’t lie just like City in the Premiere in its seems no one will knock off Barcelona in Spain. So what about the Champions League? That path does not look so easy to travel. Real Madrid have one of the toughest round of 16 matchups faced off against PSG. The Paris club has a comfortable enough lead at home that it can fully concentrate on the European competition. This is really being seen as a matchup of the old versus the new. This matchup will likely determine the path both teams will take for the remainder of the season.
As of right now Real Madrid’s path looks very dark and treacherous. Needless to say they still have a great squad that can turn it around. They still have one of the top 2 players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. a very star filled midfield with ever changing parts. That could see Isco, Modric, Kroos, Casemiro, Kovacic, Bale and even Ascencio or Lucas Vazquez contribute depending on the needs of the match. Giving Zidane a wide range on what scheme he could have the team play in any given time. The back end still looks quite solid. Even though Sergio Ramos is closing in on his thirty second birthday he’s still one of the top centre backs in football. Keylor Navas has bit a been incosistent of late mainly due to injuries, but he can still hold his own. However there is still one problem that they could address in this transfer window. Finding a dominant stricker!
If Benzema is Not The Answer The Who?
Ever since Gonzalo Higuain left for Napoli Real Madrid have been keen on keeping away any potential competition for Karim Benzema’s spot in the line up. They shipped Alvaro Morata away twice! Javier Hernandez and many others have also come in to compete with the frenchmen, but have all been sent away. However this year Benzema has only managed to net in 5 goals in 20 appearances so far. While Morata and Higuain have put in 13 and 12 goals respectively this season.
Oddly enough the only possible return that was talked about was that of Chicharito who has a worst scoring total than Real Madrid’s current number nine. Only being able to score 4 goals so far this season for West Ham United. Harry Kane rumors have spread throughout the news however it’s highly unlikely he will make a move in January if ever. That leaves very few names out on the market for sale. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been linked to Real multiple times, and he personally has expressed his gratitude for being considered, but if it hasn’t happened it seems unlikely it will. Another option could be Inter Milan´s Mauro Icardi, however his troubled life off the pitch scares most buyers away.
Real Madrid have had a great run in the past couple of years. Maybe it’s time to move on from some of the old pieces and think about the future. That doesn’t necessarily mean parting ways with Cristiano Ronaldo. Although building a younger team around him especially upfront this late in his career, could bring more success. The problem is they had that and now he dresses up for Chelsea. That decision whether it was Zidane’s as manager or Florentino’s as owner could come back to haunt them.