Real Madrid saw their icon coach (Zidane) and their captain (Sergio Ramos) leave in the summer, in both cases in a rather unfriendly way. He did not reinforce the lead, a move that seemed inevitable to improve the team, according to the unanimous opinion. Of course, he did not bring Mbappé. He was left without the benchmark pair of centrals of the last decade (Ramos and Varane). He found no way out for old glories with a high record (Bale, Marcelo and Isco). And the club’s most expensive signing (Hazard, 115 million) was already in the lost causes column after several fiascos since his arrival.
The landscape of the whites invited, at least, caution. However, with the nougat in his mouth, his leadership in the League is such that, if he does not end up lifting the title, it would be considered a disaster. With one more day, they lead Sevilla by eight points, Betis by 13, Atlético and Real by 17, and Barcelona by 18.
Carlo Ancelotti -refished from Everton six years after being fired because the team needed “a new boost” – has managed to preserve the best of the second stage ZZ (Courtois, the Casemiro-Kroos-Modric triangle and Benzema) and has solved, for now, the attacking deficit thanks to the appearance of Mariana de Vinicius: 10 goals and five assists in four months of the tournament compared to seven and nine of the three previous full courses.
The best numbers of a pair of forwards
Now without Zizou’s skeptical gaze and with Ancelotti’s pragmatism, not only did Vinicius detonate, but he found the way to Benzema, an alliance that seemed impossible. In the second game, against Levante, the Frenchman gave the Brazilian the first assist of his life. 5,200 minutes and 103 distant encounters had passed and, often, misunderstanding. Since then, Vini has scored three more times in all competitions from Karim’s pass.
No one could have predicted it in August, but figure by figure, they are the second pair of attackers in the big five leagues. They have participated in 36 goals, only two less than Lewandowski and Müller (Bayern). Because the rise of Vinicius has been an addition to Benzema, who at 34 years old accumulates his best statistics in the domestic tournament after 18 games: protagonist in 22 goals (15 goals and seven assists).
And when the Frenchman was absent, Vinicius resolved (three goals and one assist in Elche, Anoeta and the derby). Ancelotti began prioritizing Hazard’s last name on the left, but after the Brazilian’s first rocket in the Ciutat de València (double at 3-3), there was no longer a debate. That day he began to go from “brother, don’t play with him”, from Benzema to Mendy from a year ago, to “I believe in him, it’s top”Of this September. With them, Madrid has the best scoring figure in the League (41) in the last five years.
From coast to coast
With Courtois there has been no news: it continues to stop the same. Or more, because his percentage of interventions in all competitions is 81%, the best of his career. Benefited, yes, by a not very demanding Champions League (88%). In a season where his great competitors (Oblak and Ter Stegen) are weak, he continues to do his thing. The goal conceded this Wednesday in Bilbao broke an unbeaten record of 538 minutes, the fifth best streak for a Whites’ goal.
The infallible triangle
At 62, surely Ancelotti already feels little need to give himself a pot. After beating Granada 1-4, he was delighted to admit that the average Casemiro-Kroos-Modric did things that he asked of us. They finished arming Madrid after starting the course with the injured German and experimenting with other formulas with Valverde, Camavinga and even Isco and Asensio. However, from the 0-5 to Shakhtar resorted to the classic mold and Madrid straightened out. With a very high version of Kroos and “the less than 30” that Modric insists on claiming (he has 36), Madrid has 13 wins and two draws in the last 15 games with hardly any rotations (in the previous ten appointments, two losses and two even).
The Cornellà click
In the Espanyol field the tests were finished. The defeat (2-1) with Alaba as a left-back, four midfielders and Casemiro as a substitute, moved to Carletto to reflection. The next game, in Kiev, he confessed that he had concluded that 4-3-3 was the best system for that squad. He no longer moved Alaba from center, he did not negotiate the shortlist of the medullary and, in addition, he frequently ordered his team to lean back a little to look for spaces. “It is not very aesthetic, but we do not have the means to defend in the open field and we do it well,” he argued. His first idea of pressing up was put on hold.
The Militão-Alaba lubrication
The spurt of Madrid has occurred with the only effective novelty of Alaba (Camavinga is a substitute). His partner with Militão in the center of defense is the great name change. The injuries of Ramos and Varane in the second half of last season have already rehearsed the jump, but since July they have been left without a net. The Austrian leads and attacks while Militão dominates from above and rectifies, if necessary, for speed. The recent chants at the Bernabéu to the Brazilian, exiled nine months ago, symbolized the leader’s rush. With them, plus Courtois and the so-called low block, the 16 goals conceded in the League is their second best figure of the decade, after 12 in 2019/20. Nacho waits again at the bank.
In the attic of the exiles there have even been lost causes that have given some sign of life (Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard). Other fallen angels, meanwhile, have remained on the ground (Isco, Bale and Marcelo). In full flood in the last month, Madrid have been able to find drops of water in the deserts of Jovic and Hazard.
The Serbian came out cold in Anoeta due to Benzema’s injury, and ended with a goal and an assist, all news in a player who cost 60 million and since 2019 has added two goals and three terminal passes. And, in the last week, the Belgian returned to play two games in a row as a starter in three days, something that his physique did not allow him in September, according to Ancelotti.
The coach was not as complacent with him as Zidane, he made it clear that the left now only has the name of Vinicius and came to appeal to faith to await his resurrection. His level in England is still history, but the covid outbreak made a hole for him on his strange right and, at least, he was able to complete two duels and leave drinkable performances. In full euphoria, the Italian proclaimed: “Hazard is back.”
There was no option to say the same of others. Bale, bet on the first three games, was injured as soon as he returned to the Bernabéu for training. Since then, injuries, covid, minutes with Wales and none as a target since August 28. Captain Marcelo fulfills his last months in silence, the same as Isco, who has generated more noise. Headline in August when Kroos and Modric were absent, since his alleged refusal to continue warming up in Granada he has not reappeared. To the humanist and old fox Carletto There has been no lack of good words with the man from Malaga to lower the ambient volume. From the homegrown players, for their part, there has been no news.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.