The La Liga race is reaching its final stage. Real Madrid lead the current standings by two points over Barcelona. And the Blancos still have a match in hand to go with that lead – away to Celta Vigo. And with both the teams qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals, squad rotation will be crucial in the title race.
Defence is another factor which is very important in the race to the league title. And it is one area where Real Madrid need to work. They have let in 27 goals in 26 matches so far this season, which is more than a goal per game. On the other hand, Barcelona have conceded just 23 goals in 27 matches. Moreover, Madrid have just 7 clean sheets this season to Barcelona’s 11.
These stats clearly prove that Madrid have been below par in their defence this season. But the good thing is that Madrid have always managed to outscore their opponents. Pepe’s injury has been a crucial blow to Madrid’s defensive slump as he was exceptional in the Euro 2016. And with Sergio Ramos’ form declining this season, and Marcelo practically playing as a winger, things could get a lot worse for them.
Keeping aside his heroics in front of goal, Ramos has been a bit irresponsible at the back this season. From rash challenges to giving unnecessary penalties, the club captain has shown some signs of ageing. But the major loophole in the Madrid defence has been on the left side. Marcelo offers a lot in attack, but he often forgets his role is that of a defender in the team. As a result of this, he is often caught out of position.
With Raphael Varane and Pepe injured, Nacho has slotted into the defence, and has performed really well. But Danilo has never looked convincing at right back in the absence of Dani Carvajal. He has made far too many errors this season, and is already considered as one of the worst Madrid signings in the history of the club.
Madrid shotstopper Keylor Navas has been very disappointing this season. His error ended the record 40-match unbeaten streak as he failed to stop a Jovetic effort. Insigne again exposed the Costa-Rican’s dip in form, catching him out of position and scoring from 40 yards. And his latest mistake last week against Real Betis almost handed their opponents the match.
Pepe is out of contract at the end of the season. And there is still no sign of the Portuguese defender signing a new contract. Jesus Vallejo is on loan at Frankfurt. He is highly rated as Pepe’s heir at the centre of defence. And Zidane is a huge admirer of the Spanish defender.
Club superstar Cristiano Ronaldo made his point on the Real Madrid defence quite clear during the half time of their Champions League second leg match against Napoli last week. Ronaldo was caught on live Spanish TV telling his team-mate Pepe,” We don’t know how to defend.” And he has a point. Madrid seem to have forgotten the art of defending.