The royal club, the current UEFA Champions League cup holders, the club with all the star names and the best depth, are still struggling to win within 90 minutes. What is the BBC not firing and will Casemiro’s injury hurt them even further? Real Madrid’s last three games just scraped past Sporting Lisbon in extra time. Ronaldo and James managed a draw against the yellow submarine at the Bernabeu and yet another draw against Las Palmas this time away.
In the game against Sporting Lisbon, many underestimated the opposition because of Real’s lofty standards and the history of the competition. But, Sporting came out with a point to prove and with a perfect strategy to suffocate the 11 time Champions. It is not unknown that Real Madrid struggles to create against sides that park the bus. And Real’s defense is vulnerable in counters due to the attacking position of the wing backs. However, Casemiro did an amazing job covering up for these mishaps, and lack of positioning knowledge most of the times. Sporting put men behind the ball providing as little space to the Madrid attack as possible making it tough for the BBC to connect. They formed defensive triangles around the attackers and the only option Madrid had was to pass it backwards. This led Madrid to follow the same old attacking they use: pass the ball to wingers and put in crosses after crosses and hope for something to happen. Though this worked in the end, thanks to James’ pinpoint cross perfectly headed in by Alvaro Morata in the final minutes, but, Sporting deserved a point for such an amazing display.
Villareal again follow the same strategy and Real again ended up crossing and crossing endlessly without any direct play. The story was somewhat different against Las Palmas as Real paid for poor finishing and decision making in the final third as they struggled to win a game that should have been well and over in the first half itself.
Zidane should know that Real Madrid is one of the worst clubs when defending a one goal lead unless a proper structure has been made and the move has been practiced well in the training ground. Real is more used to scoring 4-5 a game and then seeing the game out, keeping the possession , creating chances. One thing Zidane should learn from Barcelona’s game that they rarely do struggle against defenses like those of Atletico , Juventus or Villareal for that matter because they play more direct football. They try to hit the opposition when the team is in a transition phase, which clearly dismantles the defensive system of the opposition. Barcelona also have a field day as soon as the first goal goes in.
Another thing that Zidane can try is the 6 second rule. It can come in really handy against such opposition, the rule as the name suggests means to win the ball within 6 seconds of losing it by some strategic pressing and discipline from the players. This will cut out the counter attacking vulnerability factor from the equation. Bale, Cristiano and Ramos would certainly make the top 5 headers of the ball at the moment, but, the conversion rate of crosses is really poor be it any team for that matter.
The biggest issue at the moment is the absence of Casemiro and Real Madrid certainly don’t have any replacement for the Brazilian. He is one of the most important cog in the wheel in Madrid’s system. Casemiro’s positioning eases the defenders out and he makes Ramos and Pepe’s job a lot easier. He was certainly missed against Las Palmas and that equalizer scored by Palmas showed why he is so important. The Palmas player, who was left unmarked in the penalty area clearly showed that even though Kroos and Modric can track back and help the defenders, but, they lack the sense of positioning which Casemiro has, being at the right place at the right time. Zidane as of now will have to do without the Brazilian for a month or so and he does have a lot of options to choose from like Asensio, James, Isco, Kovacic or maybe Ramos. The best bet may be to play either Isco or Kovacic because their defensive work rate is really amazing and they will offer an edge in the attack as well. Playing Ramos is another option but it is a really risky business as we saw under Ancelotti playing Ramos as CDM really paid off against Atletico Madrid but later when he used him against Juventus it was a total disaster.
The best bet may be to play either Isco or Kovacic because their defensive work rate is remarkable and they will offer an edge in the attack as well. Playing Ramos is another option but it is a risky business. This stems from the fact that, under Ancelotti, playing Ramos as CDM paid off against Atletico Madrid but later when he used him against Juventus it was a total disaster.
In the end, Zidane should be making substitutions as they are an important part of the game. He made questionable substitutions in the past few games, one of the biggest surprises was to remove Ronaldo in the last game. One of the worst decisions he made was not bringing in Isco against Villareal. Isco is the best dribbler in the current Madrid side and can cause players to get out of position, which was exactly required against Villareal who had parked the bus. But, Zidane kept him on the bench and James on the pitch who was just putting in cross after cross inside the box hoping for another miracle to happen.
Zidane will have to really ponder about all these points and have to make the most of the one point lead which they have at the moment in the league. Real Madrid have looked far from the best but as soon as the UCL anthem plays there is this different kind of energy in the Madrid players. The game against Dortmund is the right time to turn things around.