Euro 2020 Special

La Liga: How Can You Best Stop Los Blancos?

If you had asked me this question up until about 18 months ago, I may have struggled to find a legitimate answer.

That’s because for a good two years, Real Madrid were the top club side not just in La Liga, but in the world, creating European and La Liga 2020 highlights galore at will.

Kings of Europe, winning the Champions League three years in succession – unprecedented since the European Cup changed format in the early 1990s – but also comprising world-class talent in virtually every area you looked.

That they had one of, if not the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo at his peak for much of that time obviously helped and he, more than anyone, single-handedly guided Real Madrid to the third of those triumphs.

CR7 inspired them past three giants of the game in Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern Munich in the knockout stages two seasons ago, providing one jaw-dropping intervention after another.

With other players seemingly in their prime too, it meant that, despite having a seasoned professional goalkeeper, they didn’t require one of the world’s elite no. 1s in their ranks because their quality was clear in so many other departments.

How ironic that since Keylor Navas has been replaced by one of the world’s top shot-stoppers in Thibaut Courtois, Real have actually become a more weakened outfit.

Thibaut Courtois has been underwhelming for the La Liga giants this season
Thibaut Courtois deflects a Manchester City goal attempt during their Champions League match

Yes, the catalyst was when Ronaldo departed, along with manager Zinedine Zidane – now back at the helm, of course – but without their main two leaders, no amount of goals from Karim Benzema, probing from Toni Kroos or dark arts from skipper Sergio Ramos have been enough for them to continue such a run.

This term, they are in a slightly better position in that they are still in contention for the La Liga title after winning the most recent El Clasico.

And despite losing the first leg at home and missing players through injury, they are still very much in the last-16 Champions League tie against Manchester City, the English champions.

With football currently on hold the world over, whether that tie is ever played remains to be seen and Real have no longer that sense of invincibility.

Yet there is now a suggestion that Zidane can reload during Real Madrid’s extended break.

If the season does resume, there is certainly plenty of time for the Frenchman to turn matters around.

The SBOTOP La Liga 2020 news tell us don’t write them off.

There are 11 matches remaining and 33 points up for grabs, and the players will have that in their minds as they keep fit inside their own homes.

Zidane’s major concern during Madrid’s quarantine is that the players fall out of shape, so the club has devised personalised fitness programmes for each of them to follow at home.

If normal service does resume, Zidane should also have more options to choose from within his squad.

Courtois and Marcelo will be fit for a second leg against City, when they would not have been this week – when the tie was originally scheduled to be played – due to injury.

Madrid also have Eden Hazard and Marcos Asensio to return from injury and they could be available for several key matches they would have missed if the calendar had not been pushed back.

Currently, the coronavirus outbreak has totally disrupted elite sport, as well as daily life. The only thing those involved with Real can do is limit the spread of the virus by staying away from people and activities, something which is completely alien for a club of Los Blancos’ stature.

But it could be timely as Real regroup and remind themselves of what they have to offer.

Lately they have been criticised for many things: Kroos (30) and Luka Modric (34) for only influencing games sporadically; Lucas Vazquez for lacking precision with his final delivery; Gareth Bale (30) for being too inconsistent (when selected); Ramos (33) for displaying too much indiscipline when the going gets tough; little defensive solidity and not enough ruthlessness in attack.

However, any side with the likes of Courtois, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Casemiro and record signing Hazard will always be a threat.

Despite a slightly ageing squad and being in their worst form of the season – losing four of their last five games in all competition and winning just once in their last five – Zidane’s seemingly superhuman ability to revive footballers has shown signs of reviving itself again this term.

European Champions for 1,012 days until a year ago, Madrid were for so long based around Ronaldo and were always going to require some adaptation once he had left.

Yes they are certainly beatable but far from the busted flush many of their critics have suggested.




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