A 2-1 win last week saw Real Madrid get back to winning ways in La Liga and head into the World Cup break on a positive note.
The last few games haven’t been great for Real Madrid. Their unbeaten start to the La Liga season ended in a 3-2 derby defeat to Rayo Vallecano away, when it should have been a routine win for Real instead. Prior to the defeat at Rayo, Carlo Ancelotti’s men had dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Girona that gave their arch-rivals Barcelona the opportunity to capitalise and move above them in the table.
With players having headed for the Qatar World Cup, here are three takeaways from Real Madrid’s season till now.
#Vinicius Jr. sizzling in White
Vinicius Jr.’s time in Real Madrid has not been plain sailing, but he is reaping the rewards of his hard work, determination and attitude. While he was second to Karim Benzema last season in terms of impact, goals and game-changing moments in what was an extraordinary campaign that ended with 22 goals and 16 assists in 52 games, the nippy winger has become the MVP for Real this season.
Vinicius Jr., who scored in the Champions League final win over Liverpool in May, has registered 10 goals and five assists in 21 games so far this season, proving an absolute joy to watch on the left flank. His link-up with Rodrygo Goes, Ernesto Valverde and Benzema, when fit, has been a treat to the eyes.
If the Brazilian continues on this trajectory, he could easily better last season’s tally.
#Rodrygo proving a capable deputy to Benzema
Carlo Ancelotti has chosen Rodrygo Goes to replace Karim Benzema while the French striker has been injured this season. Undoubtedly, it is a tough task to replace Benzema—the 2022 Ballon d’Or Winner—but Rodrygo has done a stellar job.
With seven goals in all competitions, the 21-year-old has already proved himself to be handy in front of goal. Scoring in big games against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, whilst netting thrice in the Champions League group stage this term, Rodrygo has shown he has what it takes to become Benzema’s natural heir at the Santiago Bernabeu.
#Defensive problems cannot be overlooked
Real Madrid arguably had their worst game of the season in the Champions League defeat to RB Leipzig, where nothing went according to plan right from the onset.
In what was a much-changed backline, that absurdly saw Antonio Rudiger start at left-back and Nacho pair up with David Alaba in central defence, Leipzig pressed Real Madrid, easily broke their lines with pressure and intensity, carved them apart many times and scored three goals.
Since the 3-2 defeat at Leipzig in late October, Ancelotti’s men have conceded goals in the subsequent four games in all competitions. Be it in the draw with Girona or the embarrassing defeat to Rayo, Real’s defensive flaws are there for everyone to see and teams to exploit.
The attacking unit’s high efficiency and Thibaut Courtois’ unreal performances in goal masked most of Real’s defensive problems last term, but opposition teams are finding ways to breach their rearguard with minimum fuss now.
Under Ancelotti, this is a Real Madrid team handled with great ease and a group that believes in each other, but their defensive vulnerabilities and individual errors could become the major undoing in the second half of the season if not addressed timely.