Real Madrid defeated: what’s gone sour at the Bernabeu?
By any other side’s standards, Real Madrid, who are still in contention for La Liga and Champions League titles, would be considered to be having a sensational season. Except Los Blancos (3/1 with Coral to retain the Champions League) are not just any other club.
Mere months ago, coach Carlo Ancelotti was lauded for steering Real to La Decima, but now the 55-year-old is under-fire after dropping points against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao in consecutive matches.
That slip has allowed bitter rivals Barcelona to storm to the top of the table, after smashing Rayo Vallecano 6-1. With a trip to the Nou Camp due, the next El Clasico could well be a title decider, so Real must get their house in order quickly.
So, what’s bothering Los Blancos?
Madrid have often been criticised for papering defensive cracks with attacking superstars, but this time it appears offence is where part of the problem lies.
Real are of course reliant on superstar Cristiano Ronaldo but, with a raft of top quality talents in their ranks, cannot be considered a one man team. At least they shouldn’t be.
It’s no coincidence that Los Blancos have stumbled during Ronaldo’s dry spell in front of goal, as the Portugal skipper has struck just three times in his past nine games, with one of those a spot kick.
Neither Gareth Bale, who has not found the net in his last eight appearances, or Karim Benzema, have stepped up to put in performances worthy of their price tag, hinting at a deeper problem.
The demanding Bernabeu faithful must be glancing covetously at the link-up play and team work showcased by Barca’s talented trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, as their own stars fail to click.
Ancelotti certainly seems to believe a lack of understanding and willingness to work together is hindering his squad. The Italian coach stated recently: “There is no connection, there is too much individual play. It’s strange to say Madrid have a problem up front when we have scored so many goals but I think it’s the truth.”
“We need to attack as a team. It is quite confusing what we are doing when we are attacking at the moment,” added Los Blancos’ boss.
With Ronaldo seemingly frustrated by his form, and Bale evidently lacking in confidence after being criticised for selfishness earlier this season, it might be a lot to ask for the duo to reinvigorate their partnership.
While their respective talents should see both shine again, Madrid have just two games to find their spark before El Clasico beckons.
This brings Ancelotti back in to the frame. Many fans and pundits have put the blame squarely on the ex-AC Milan and Chelsea coach and it seems winning the Champions League does not guarantee job safety.
Criticism has been aimed at Ancelotti’s calm coaching style, but this is surely why the experienced tactician was brought in, to appease the egos after Jose Mourinho’s abrasive approach. The Madrid hierarchy must decide what more they want from a man who has supposedly healed the dressing room and delivered silverware.
In fairness, Real’s lack of rotation following a World Cup seems to have taken a toll on the players, but Ancelotti does not appear to have much faith in his squad players.
The likes of Manchester United-owned Javier Hernandez, Castilla product Jese and Asier Illarramendi should certainly be utilised more, and the buck stops with Ancelotti for that.
When big misses Luka Modric and James Rodriguez return from injury, midfield should regain it’s fluency. While vice-captain Sergio Ramos may be rash, the Spanish giants certainly miss his organisation and leadership.
So, it’s not all doom and gloom for Real (5/4 to reach the Champions League final), but the new generation of Galacticos must recover form quickly, if this season is not to prove a disappointing sequel to last.