Bizarro Bernabéu: Real Madrid’s season so far
From dominating FC Barcelona over two legs in the Supercopa de Espana to losing at home against Real Betis. You couldn’t possibly summarize Real Madrid in a more fitting way. Everything you need to know about Real Madrid’s 2017/18 campaign thus far.
Hopes were high at the start of the 2017/18 campaign of Real Madrid. Not only was Florentino Perez’ (Real Madrid president) transfer-business superb, but arch-nemesis FC Barcelona were having one of the most meme-worthy summers simultaneously: tried signing Verratti, failed, angered the PSG president which resulted in Barcelona losing Neymar to PSG. It didn’t stop there as Barcelona’s answer to the loss of Xavi in 2014/15 was finally answered: Paulinho. Looking back on tweets of this period makes your average friendly Madridista appear like a smug bastard. Barcelona are currently sitting on the number 1 spot in La Liga with 21 points out of 7 games, while Real Madrid are 5th with 14 points.
What happened? During the Supercopa de Espana, Real Madrid dominated FC Barcelona in a fashion only Barcelona could do to Madrid during their Pep-era. Something remarkable happened during the 1st leg: Cristiano Ronaldo got subbed on, scored a goal to make it 1-2 in Madrid’s favour, pulled a Messi in the Bernabeu celebration which resulted in a yellow card, to then get red carded for a dive. A 5 match ban for Ronaldo would be its result. The first La Liga game without Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t give Madrid any problems, a 0-3 victory against Deportivo la Coruna came as no surprise (nor did Ramos’ red card) considering the incredible form Madrid were in, but all was about to change.
The second game of the season, being Madrid’s first home game, resulted in a 2-2 draw. Who else but Valencia to put a halt to Madrid’s winning ways. If it wasn’t for the golden-boy Asensio in the 83rd minute, a loss would have been imminent. Most Madrid fans are always on alert whenever Madrid faces Valencia. “Always be prepared to drop points against Valencia” is the go-to mentality to prevent high blood pressures and heart attacks. International break came and went, and just like that, the Royal Whites were 0-1 down in the 12th minute against Levante. The match would eventually end in a 1-1 draw, but the panic only started. How can the mighty Los Blancos draw two consecutive games at home? Truth be told, the answer was quite simple: Madrid weren’t finishing their chances, which they had in abundance. Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence became apparent. Champions League time, which meant that Cristiano could make an appearance as his match-ban didn’t count outside of Spain. He came, he saw, he conquered. A simple brace from the dark invader and an 88th minute goal from Sergio Ramos (water is wet), saw Madrid beat APOEL 3-0. The goalscoring problem was found, Ronaldo’s domestic absence. Or was it?
Along came the biggest test of Real Madrid’s campaign thus far: an unbeaten Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, one of the most chilling phrases for every La Liga fan. Zidane thought that a Mayoral-experiment was due, which paid off – the Fabrica product scored the first goal for Madrid. But bad news came along as Sociedad’s Rodrigues scored the 1-1, but then he also scored the 1-2 for Madrid. Bale then sealed the game off, 1-3 was the result and Real Madrid were officially back from crisis. Setien, the brilliant coach from Real Betis, made sure to keep Madrid in their mini-crisis by implementing Madrids worst nemesis, the Pausa.
‘La Pausa’, is a strategic tool that takes up a variety of forms. The concept’s basic premise involves halting progression of the ball and waiting for the landscape of the play to change. Betis not only outplayed Madrid, but beat Madrid 0-1 in the capital of Spain. As Madrid barely scraped a 1-2 victory over a yet to win La Liga team in Deportivo Alaves, Madrid fans were pessimistic over the next CL fixture: Dortmund away. It would end up being one of the most exciting matches in Madrids season. The high Dortmund press gave Madrid an opportunity to show how incredibly press-resisant of a team they are. Bale also showcased how powerful of a shot he has in his locker, blasting past the competition. Cristiano Ronaldo scoring yet another brace, finishing the game against Dortmund 1-3. Real Madrid went on to beat Espanyol 2-0 with both goals coming from Isco, overshadowing a great performance from Cristiano Ronaldo. Creativity and goals, which Madrid lacked during Cristiano’s absence, seemingly returned. Another International break came and went, and here we are. Madrid sitting 5th in the Liga table.
By: Xav Salazar/@XavsFutbol
Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images