Just 2 rounds before the break, Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the El Classico to move above the Catalan club by 1 point, only to give away the lead in the table to Barcelona with 2 precious points in the next round as they lost away to Real Betis, while Barcelona grabbed a late penalty against Real Sociedad. So this is how it stood before the pandemic break; an inconsistent and lackluster Real Madrid trailing an even and their only real competitor, Barcelona by 2 points in the league table with 11 games remaining for both the sides.
Post Lockdown changes :
Now if Real wanted a turnaround, they had to be mentally and physically fit because it’s not easy to compete 11 matches in 38 days in the hot summer season with no fans in the stands to cheer them up. But Real as a unit simply stood up and delivered in this condition. The advantage for Zidane is that he had both Hazard and Asensio back in the squad. With 5 substitutes allowed per game, Real had an enormous squad depth to exploit that rule the most, than any club in the league. They played out with real intensity in their first game against Eibar. Real looked solid throughout the match. It was undoubtedly their best first half performance of the season. Though their game dropped a little bit and conceded a goal, they managed to defend calmly and take the match away from Eibar’s hand. This match almost precisely defined how Real has been in the title race for the upcoming fixtures.
Real Madrid also had to hope that Barcelona would lose points which would Real an indirect advantage in the title race, which they did eventually, with slip-ups against Sevilla, Celta Vigo, Atletico Madrid and Osasuna.
Zidane’s men steadied their ,ship with 10 consecutive victories to the finish line. The main reason for their success is the unity among the players. Zidane had used 23 different players this season and since the restart he hasn’t used one same, combination of 11 players for any two different games. Zizou’s man management and organizational skills have given fruitful results, with the players obeying his orders .
Courtois, since the draw against Club Brugge match has evolved as an inevitable goalkeeper in the team and Zidane has used his explosive form after ,the resumption and Thibaut has never disappointed his coach.
Talking about the back line, words are not enough to describe how good it has been. Headed by the sturdy and resilient Sergio Ramos, who has no sign to slow down even at the age of 34, in the center, he has with him, Raphael Varane, his center back partner, who is ice cool under difficult conditions and rarely commits an error. In the right full back we have , Dani Carvajal, who is good in absorbing the opponenet’s wingers and still attacking down the flanks. In the left back, it seems that Marcelo is slowly giving his successor batch to Ferland Mendy, who is arguably the best attacking left back in La Liga at this moment. Though Marcelo is still useful as an attacker and can be used in big matches, but Mendy is an all round, something which the Los Merengues really needs.
Everyone have stepped up in the midfield zone. Casemiro was doing his old duties by getting rid off opponent’s dominance with legal challenges. Valverde was always supporting Carvajal in the right and maintained the width when the full back moved upward. Kroos kept dropping deep to help the link up play and Modric at 34, kept doing wonders, by running all over the pitch and playing as a box-to-box midfielder, providing the key passes in the final third.
Zidane deployed Benzema in almost every match, with Hazard, Vinicius, Rodrygo, Bale and Asensio surrounding him and supporting him. Benzema has been an excellent treat to watch after the restart. He has been creating chances, dropping deep to link up the play, pressuring the opponents and also scoring goals; what more can you ask from a striker? Vinicius has been excellent, doing his explosive bursts in the left channel which created lots of dangerous opportunities, but he needs to work more on his finishing skills. Hazard had been quite moderate because he has been fouled the most time in his squad and he is also worrying about his previous ankle injury . So Zidane had protected the player really well . Rodrygo is a player who has a lot of qualities to perform well and he has proven it since the restart. Asensio is also in the zone after, scoring with his first touch since his return to the game after almost 10 months.
One man who needs a separate credits for the team’s success is Gregory Dupont, the conditioning coach of Real Madrid. He had literally turned the players into ,a machine who utilizes their capacity to their fullest in every match they played.
Real had to grudge out some important wins against some difficult oppositions, but their defensive prowess showed that nothing could shake them in the quest for their 34th La Liga title. Now the team must focus on the Champions League as they have an important tie against Manchester City ,coming up very soon. This crown along with 10 straight wins in a row will surely boost their confidence and make the tie less challenging.
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