What is going wrong for Real Madrid in La Liga?
Is Real Madrid in 'crisis' as some outlets claim? If so, is it possible to mount a comeback?
Let's look at the facts. It is still mid-November in a marathon campaign. Although no team has ever won La Liga from ten points adrift, there are still six months and two El Classico encounters for Los Blancos to claw back crucial points. They must first improve in some areas though.
Attack not converting chances
Barcelona has scored 33 goals in 12 La Liga games this season. Real Madrid, meanwhile, has netted only 22. However, this statistic is misleading as Los Blancos have averaged 19.3 shots per game to the Blaugrana's 15. So, the defending Spanish champions are creating chances but unable to capitalize.
Are Cristiano Ronaldo's lackluster performances to blame for Madrid's struggles? Yes, at least in some part. He has scored just once in eight league appearances this campaign.
There have been rumours this past week suggesting Ronaldo received an offer to renew his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu. His demands weren't met, though, and he believed it showed the club doesn't value him highly enough. Marca also reported that there was a falling out between the Portuguese star and teammate Sergio Ramos in the dressing room. At any rate, Ronaldo has generated more gossip than goals in recent times.
Real Madrid's other strikers aren't faring much better this season. Karim Benzema has just one goal to his name; Gareth Bale - who has missed most of this campaign through injury - is on two, while Isco has four. The Spaniard is proving a positive spark among a very average Madrid side.
A poor defensive record
It is well known: the best offense is a solid defense. At least Real Madrid has lost only two La Liga matches, right? Correct. But Zinedine Zidane's side have conceded preventable goals, with many coming from losing possession while attacking. Los Blancos aren't disciplined enough defensively.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been left completely helpless at times this season. Raphael Varane, Nacho, Dani Carvajal, and Marcelo have failed to form a cohesive defensive unit, especially in Ramos' absence. They haven't worked well together and are sometimes haplessly out of position. Even now Ramos has returned, the situation is uncontrolled at the back. Furthermore, underestimating teams such as Girona - a newly promoted side which scored twice to defeat Los Blancos last month - has caused Madrid to become vulnerable.
How much is down to luck?
Football results sometimes come down to luck. All teams, players, and managers run into poor form. It is a question of remaining patient, continuing to create chances, and waiting for the goals to come. If proof is needed, look to Luis Suarez. He has been under immense pressure due to his problems finding the net. This past weekend, however, the Barcelona striker scored a brace against Leganes. Both goals were the result of initial shots from Paco Alcacer, which were parried by the goalkeeper, falling kindly to the Uruguayan. Suarez has regained his confidence following a little luck. Real Madrid need similar.
After the recent Madrid derby, Zidane tried to reassure the press about his side's ability to challenge Barcelona for the title.
I don’t think it’s too far, there’s still a long way to go. There are still a lot of points to play for. Ten points are a lot, but that’ll change. Barcelona aren’t going to pick up three points in every game and we have to be there waiting. I don’t feel as though the title race is over. We’ll keep doing our job, this is football and things change quickly. We’ll fight to the end. When I arrived here we were ten points behind Barcelona and we finished just one behind.
His rivals in Catalonia think along the same lines. Speaking after the Leganes match, coach Ernesto Valverde continued his cautious attitude towards the hype surrounding Barcelona.
“11 points difference? Nothing special. There are a lot of games left.”
If Real Madrid remain ten points adrift come the new year, though, the club's title aspirations will vanish. The Spanish giants will then be in a real crisis.