La Liga

The hangover

This season has been an unprecedented season for so many different reasons. As previously discussed in my blog post, which can be found here; https://ayyazmalik.com/2021/01/09/a-season-like-no-other/. This season has been an unusual one to put it mildly. In the English Premier League, there has been some normality that’s returned as Manchester City seem odds on to win their third title in four seasons.

Across Europe, Real Madrid/Barcelona neither of them are leading Laliga, it’s Atletico Madrid who seem to be running away it, but a surprise 2-0 home loss to Levante, means that the gap has closed at the top to just three points, but Diego Simeone’s side do have a game in hand.

In Germany although usual league leaders Bayern Munich are still top, ever since they returned for a successful and triumphant Club World Cup, The Bavarians have conceded 31 goals already this term, one less than they did in the entire 2019-2020 season. Their 2-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt means that the Bundesliga is more competitive this year.

With the example of Bayern, the Champions League winners have been far from flawless. In France last year’s Champions League beaten finalists PSG, have been suffering from indifferent from and they too aren’t have thing their own way in Ligue 1 as they trail league leaders Lille by four points. This is the same that could be said about Italian champions Juventus.

Juve, who have had a strangle hold on the Scudetto for a past best part of a decade, trail league leaders Inter by a massive 11 points, it must be noted that The Old lady have two games in hand over The Nerazzurri in Serie A. Regardless of this fact, even Juventus haven’t had things their own way.

This bug, shall we call it has travelled to Scotland too. Celtic who were looking to complete the ’10 in a row’, have been thwarted by a resurgent Rangers who are just seven points away from a first trophy in the Steven Gerrard reign. Covid, has affected us all and here’s to thinking that May can’t come quick enough.

But there’s some good things to have come out football being the way that is due to Covid, it’s not as boring and predictable as what it has been across Europe. That is a good thing, here’s to hoping that next season will be something similar, but I am not holding my breath.

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The woes of Madrid explained

When you think of the two words Real and Madrid, whether you’re a football fan or not, you tend to to think of a footballing powerhouse and with good reason too. They’re the most successful team in Europe (13 Champions League wins).

Let’s not forget the 34 La Liga title wins in the history that they have won, meaning they’re the most successful team in Spain and the more than respectable 19 Copa Del Rey trophies too. As impressive as that trophy cabinet is, I paint a rather worrying tale.

Yes, they won the league title last year, and yes they’re second, but they’re seven points behind their neighbours and arch-rivals Atletico Madrid , but Diego Simeone’s side have two games in hand. Defeats to Levante at home (2-1) and a shock loss in the Copa Del Rey to Alcoyano too (2-1 after extra time) are signs of worrying times at the Bernabeu.

Alcoyano, are a third tier team and in that game despite manager Zinedine Zidane resting players, there were still full internationals on the pitch, which made this defeat against the Spanish minnows the more embarrassing.

So what’s the reason for this slump in form? Well, we must understand this isn’t a slump this season, this decline has been happening over the past few months. The main reason for this seems to be that Real manager Zidane, is struggling to replace several ageing stars.

Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Marcelo have been great players but Los Blancos have been too reliant on these players. As great as these players are, age waits for no one, and in the case of this quintet this is also the case.

To be fair to the Madrid board, Ferland Mendy has come in as a replacement for Marcelo and has performed well, but players like Militao have had limited playing time in central defence. Zizou’s preferred central defensive partnership tends to be Ramos and Rafael Varane.

As good as Madrid captain Ramos has been, there’s an over reliance on him, so much so that Real look half the side without him. Other signings such as Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, hasn’t been a good one, which is the same as Luka Jovic.

It can be argued, and I still argue, if Real would have given him more game time, then the young Serb would have come good. Real Madrid can’t rely on Benzema forever for goals and Jovic is a goal scorer. Yes it’s early days, but the former Eintracht man has returned to his former club on loan and has grabbed three goals in three games, which I feel proves my point.

So what’s the solution? It seems like an easy one, but Real really need to go back to basics and look to recruit from within. Their academy had been baring fruits, especially when players like Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio were coming out of the production line.

From the defensive side of things, two players have been produced from the Real academy in recent times, Dani Carvajal and Nacho being those two players. These are just two further examples that Real Madrid have the players that are good enough to come through the ranks and into the first team. The Spanish giants don’t have the financial clout as they once did, especially with the cost for the revamp of the stadium to consider too and the revelations of the extent of the debts that they’re in (approx €900 million)

Sometimes, things have to get worse to get better, this example I feel applies too, but Real will be coming back stronger, they always do.

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