How the international break can work in Real Madrid's favour
Real Madrid were supposed to be an unbeatable team this season. They started a season with 2 trophies, defeated Barcelona in two consecutive El Classico, with an overall aggregate of 5-1.
There were talks of Los Blancos finally having a real chance of winning the treble this season, the only thing that has eluded them until now and something which their arch-rivals Barca have done twice.
Fast forward to November, Real Madrid are 3rd in La Liga, 8 points behind Barcelona. They have already lost two games in the league, against new-comers Girona and Real Betis, a match in which Real’s streak of scoring in 73 consecutive games also came to an end.
They also lost a game against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League. And their strikers, Ronaldo and Benzema, have just one goal apiece in the league.
Something has gone horribly wrong for Los Blancos but the current international break might actually be the blessing in disguise for them, and could help change things at Santiago Bernabeu.
Injured players will get time to recover
One of the most important reason for Real Madrid’s poor form this season is injuries. Marcelo and Karim Benzema spent few weeks on the sidelines. And, as you read this, there are 5 Madrid players currently working on their recovery.
Bale is injured and the sky is blue. The Welshman has been injured most of this season and it has troubled Zidane to find a perfect balance in the team. Madrid’s 1st choice goalkeeper Keylor Navas is suffering from a groin injury and it has forced Zidane to play with Kiko Casilla.
The Spanish goalkeeper isn’t the best man to control the ball when put under pressure, and it has caused some scary moments in Real defence.
Varane’s muscle problems have forced Zidane to play Nacho alongside Sergio Ramos in defence, and although Jesús Vallejo impressed in the last game, Zidane would love to start with his first choice centre-back.
If there is one player who is sorely missed by Madrid, it is Carvajal. The right-back’s runs in attack and his crosses have helped Real a lot in the past and Ronaldo would love to have back for those pinpoint crosses as soon as possible.
But the players now have a break of 2 weeks, and they can recover and come back fresh soon. Real Madrid, at full strength, is a difficult team to beat, regardless of their form, and other teams will realize it once all the players are back.
The international break also gives a much-needed break to both Ronaldo and Benzema, who have done nothing but misfire for the last few games. Ronaldo was not picked for Portugal’s friendly matches and that rest might help the Portuguese find his form.
Gives Zidane some time to think about his formation and defense
Zidane is a man with a lot of questions right now. "Where should Isco play? What is wrong with my defence? Why the hell is Ronaldo not scoring?"
The last one might not be in Zidane’s hand, but the first two questions definitely have a solution.
Isco and Asensio have been Real’s best players so far, this season. Both have 4 goals each in the league and have linked very well with each other. But it hasn’t helped Ronaldo and Benzema. The youngsters have gone for personal glory on multiple occasions, instead of passing it to their seniors.
Zidane has also deployed Isco on the wings at times, but the midfielder’s natural game brings him in the midfield, again and again, causing chaos in the midfield and no key passes to grab on.
Zidane can switch to a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, with Isco in the attacking midfielder’s position just behind Ronaldo and Benzema/Asensio. Or, the Frenchman can just continue with his 4-3-3, but will need to tell Isco to play in his position. Isco cannot be the Messi of Real Madrid while Ronaldo is on the team. Simple.
In Real’s losses against Real Betis, Girona and Spurs, there was one thing in common – They pressed the panic button and threw everyone in attack only to create more confusion in the box and no one in defence to stop the counter-attack.
In the game against Betis, Zidane withdrew Isco, Marcelo and Luka Modric, and sent on Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Borja Mayoral respectively, with Ronaldo and Bale already on the pitch. 5 attackers? And no mid-field?
With no one asserting positional awareness, and with Sergio Ramos also attacking, Betis found the net on the counter-attack to shock the Champions. The same thing happened against Spurs, where Madrid, once again, left the defence empty after the score read 2-0, and Spurs took full advantage of it to add another goal.
What if Ramos and Casemiro had kept their positions? Real could have had the real chance of coming back in the game after Ronaldo’s goal. Zidane needs to make sure the team doesn’t panic in such situations.
Casemiro's position is very important for Real Madrid. He needs to understand that his job of holding opponent's midfield and attack stays the same regardless of game situation. Have you ever seen Sergio Busquets in the box when Barca are losing?
No. Instead, he comes back to fill Pique's position, who surges ahead in attack. Similarly, Casemiro must track back in defence, whenever Ramos flies into the attack.
Real Madrid are a great team. They have world-class players in their squad and in Zidane, they have one of the sharpest minds in football in the dugout. Most importantly, they have Cristiano Ronaldo.
Those who are writing Ronaldo off, have no idea about his abilities. He will come back stronger. After all, it was Ronaldo's form in the second half of the last season which helped them conquer both Spain and Europe.
After all, Real need just a little momentum to get started again and their match against cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid immediately after the international break might just be the one. A victory, or even an impressive performance to draw the game, will help them get back on track.
But it won’t be easy as Atletico are unbeaten in the league, and their new home, Wanda Metropolitano, is not easy to conquer.
Real need to break Atletico’s sturdy defence and conquer the Wanda Metropolitano because time is running out for Zidane, and Florentino Perez sure is watching!