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Real Madrid already playing catch up in La Liga

Thursday 21st September 2017
Real Madrid has already lost serious ground on rivals Barcelona for this season's La Liga and need to desperately improve if they are to regain back-to-back titles.

Barcelona are seven points ahead of Madrid and it is only week five. Zinedine Zidane's men are yet to win at home in the league and currently sit a desultory seventh; they've only found the net nine times compared to Barca's staggering 17.

Currently, there is a discernible gulf between Barcelona and Madrid, in a season where pundits, the media, and fans were predicting another Madrid triumph.

Since losing the Spanish Super Cup to Madrid, Barcelona have won six games on the trot, conceding two and scoring twenty. They dismissed last year's Champions League finalists Juventus 3-0 with a nonchalant ease, ripped apart Eibar 6-1 and demolished Espanyol 5-0 in the process. Ernesto Valverde has surprised everyone - his side looks sharp and clinical.

The sale of Neymar - one that was shrouded in acrimony from the onset - does not seem to have meant lasting damage. Yet Ousmane Dembele, Neymar's apparent replacement will be out for three to four months, so one should put that statement on hold.

The absence of Neymar has, strangely, coincided with a Lionel Messi renaissance - the Argentinian has netted nine times already this season. Of course, it seems silly to consider Messi's form a revival of sorts because the forward has been consistently world class, but this potency in front of had appeared to have left him last season. When one has a fully-fit, motivated and on-song Messi in one's team, it is little surprise to see Barca steamroll the first few weeks of the season.

Barca's brilliance has only served to expose Madrid's mediocre start to the season; both team's opening weeks an alarming juxtaposition.

Home draws to Levante and Valencia and a loss to Real Betis has whipped up a storm of disproval. The Santiago Bernabeu crowd is not happy, and such sentiments have been expressed in a vociferous manner: jeers, whistles, and boos are an ever-present.

An inconsistent Gareth Bale - who now looks a little lost in Spain -, a Cristiano Ronaldo who has completed just two full matches since the season's real inception and a Karim Benzema who has just one assist to show for his game time this season: it is not looking pretty for one of La Liga's deadliest trios.
It may be premature to write off Madrid's La Liga chances, yet should they fail to drastically improve, they will have little hope of catching a rampant Barcelona.

Is this a hangover from last year's success? Back-to-back Champions Leagues was complemented with a first La Liga title for quite some time - it all looked so promising for Real Madrid. It might yet be another successful year, but the side that wrought so much success last season look simple ghosts of their former selves.

It is Alaves up next for Real Madrid, followed by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League; that both fixtures are away from home might be a blessing for a team that has won every away game this season and continues to wilt under the intensity of its home crowd.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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