SEASON REVIEW: REAL MADRID

Team photo for Real Madrid 2020/21

The last fixture against Yellow Submarines marked an end to a season that saw Los Blancos’s side going through more injuries than the number of matches they had played thus far. A year with many cases for COVID-19, and repeated injuries of the majority of the players came to an end with a trophyless season for Real Madrid. But, despite the circumstances, Zinedine Zidane’s side were able to reach the Semi Finals of the Champions League, and finished first runner up in the Spanish Championship.

Real Madrid started their season without any fresh legs. The global pandemic, and late European tournaments finale made it sure that Real Madrid weren’t able to prepare for their preseason fixtures. Key players in James Rodriguez left for Everton, Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilón were sold to Inter MIlan, and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Youngsters like Takefusa Kubo, and Brahim Diaz were sent on loan away from the club. A team that appeared to be fully stacked on paper before the start of this season, sustained through repeated injuries and positive cases for COVID-19 made it far worse for them. With the absence of Luka Jovic, Borja Mayoral, and Martin Odegaard, Madrid had no room for complacency as they saw just a single player crossing the 10+ goal mark barrier this season. Eden Hazard remained sidelined for the majority of the season, while long term injury to our Captain Sergio Ramos ensured a catastrophic ending to a season that most of us were aware of right from the beginning.

Real Madrid started this season with a disappointing stalemate against La Real. The initial round of fixtures were starting to become troublesome, as Real could only grab a late winner against Real Betis with a match winning penalty kick by Ramos. As the team started to gain momentum with victories against Real Valladolid, and Levante, they eventually had to suffer against the newly promoted Cadiz side at home. The group stage fixtures for Champions League saw Real Madrid losing to Shakhtar Donetsk at Estadio Alfredo Stefano Stadium, while they were held to a 2–2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach. To go past the group stage matches, and through to the knockouts was becoming a hell ride for the Madridistas in white.

Los Merengues prepared for El-Clasico having lost both of their previous fixtures, but took FC Barcelona by surprise and had a remarkable victory against them. The festive season had just started to begin at the Spanish Capital, when they stumbled with 4 goals to 1 against a struggling Valencia side, and held to a draw in Estadio de la Cerámica against Villarreal. Things were getting spicier for the Madrid side, as they had to overcome an in-form Inter Milan in-order to keep alive their hopes for lifting the trophy at Istanbul, the then venue for Champions League Final. A Hazard penalty, and Rodrygo’s strike past the back of the net appeared to have found a winning way for Real, however consecutive losses against Deportivo Alaves, and Shakhtar Donetsk kept a full proof season in jeopardy. Little later than never, but these setbacks made the team more focused, and composed and they ended up topping their Group in Champions League to progress to the knockout stages with a hand on nine unbeaten games alongside the track.

The party didn’t last long, as Raúl García rose up to the occasion to help Athletic Club Bilbao beat Real Madrid in the Semi Finals of SuperCopa de Espana. Subsequently, Zidane’s side suffered another shameful defeat against a third-tier Alcoyano side in the Round of 32 stages of Copa Del Rey. Madrid lost a hold on two titles all in a span of 6 days. Pressure in the Spanish Media demanded a lot from the Los Blancos, as Real Madrid quickly turned the tide against Deportivo Alaves with a 4–1 score line. This was just the second time they had scored 4 goals past an opponent so far, however they were held by Levante at Mendizorroza, the match later.

A lot of things were at stake by this time of the year. But, Zidane’s supremacy blended with the sporadic rotation of our squad, and Real went unbeaten for 19 consecutive matches in all competitions. This course saw them go past Atlanta in Round of 16, and Liverpool in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League. Madrid not only came level against an in-form Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano, but also won the El- Clasico against Barcelona later at Alfredo de Stefnao stadium. This was the first time in years when Madrid were able to gain valuable points and held a better head-to-head advantage against these Top 3 sides.

Every good thing must come to an end. Los Merengues’s hope for an European Double were crushed by an ambitious, and high flying Thomas Thuchel’s Chelsea side as they couldn’t capitalize in the return leg fixture at Stamford Bridge. With a 3–1 aggregate scoreline, Real Madrid will now have to wait for at least a year more to see them on the forefront to clinch that glorious 14th Champions League title. The sufferings mayn’t have been enough for the Madridistas when their hopes for any silverware were pushed further away in a 2–2 scored fixture against Sevilla. At the penultimate match of the season, the team came back to their consecutive winning runs when Nacho took the stage to keep Madrid’s hope for the championships alive, and take the title decider to the last match of the season. In the last fixture of the season, Yeremi Pino took Real Madrid by surprise with an early strike in the first half of the game. Late goals from Karim Benzema, and Luka Modric was enough to secure a victory against the Yellow Submarines, however comebacks from Luis Suarez was enough for Atletico Madrid to beat Real Valladolid, as they secured their 11th La Liga title in style.

TOP PERFORMERS

The midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro, and Kross were one of the regular faces in the Starting XI throughout the course of the season. Lukita, and Casemiro started in 34 out of 38 occasions, while Kroos had to be sidelined sporadically. Amongst others who started in the majority of the games includes Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema, and Rafael Varane. COVID cases, and regular injuries made it sure that the regular starters were kept away from the starting XI many-a-times. Amidst the crisis in the Capital, several players stood up, and put in all their best efforts to be a vital addition in the squad. Lucas Vazquez played as a makeshift Right Back when Carvajal had to be sidelined. With no addition to the forwards, and the departures of key players from the position forced Real Madrid to be completely reliant on Karim Benzema. 23 goals, and 9 assists to be book just in La Liga surely takes Benzema’s name in the lead race for the best performing Real Madrid player in this season. A significant improvement in performance of Eder Militao also helped the team to stay resilient against attack, when we suffered major blows during the absence of Sergio Ramos.

PROMISING PLAYERS

Injury threatening season, and quick round of fixtures forced Zinedine Zidane to rely on young guns from Real Madrid Castilla. Amongst the rolled out players, Miguel Gutierrez started in the majority of the games. Players including Antonio Blanco, Marvin, and Victor Chust performed well when they had their starts. Their performance ensured that Real Madrid can still, at worst, go a few seasons without having a major addition in the squad. Blanco has a resounding potential to be available as a backup player for Casemiro, while Aribas can flexibly be replaced into any other available midfield options. Miguel can be a proper backup for Mendy if Marcelo leaves.

UNDERPERFORMING PLAYERS OF THE SEASON

It can be seen visibly throughout the course of the season that the lack of enough goals proved to be costly for a trophyless season for us. A lot of expectations were made on Vinicius Jr., and Marco Asensio before the start of the season to be a strong corner for our attacks. Asensio ended the season with 5 League goals to his name, while Vini put the ball into the back of the net on three different occasions. Injuries forced Hazard to be sidelined for the majority of the season for yet another year, in which he barely started in 7 matches and scored 3 goals altogether. Isco, and Marcelo who once were instrumental in Madrid’s glorious 3-peat run were as good as dead woods. If Real Madrid wish to see their glory blooming in seventh heaven, they should opt to include promising players upfront, and plan to offload the ones with little to no benefit in the squad.

PLANNING FOR THE NEXT SEASON

Although Real Madrid are debt free than the majority of the top across Europe’s Top 5 leagues, the coronavirus crisis, and ongoing renovation at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has put a rather complicated set of financial adjustments that needs to be settled before the start of the new season. This season saw us go through 62 injuries, so we can expect to see few faces in the medical team. Marcelo, and Isco have now been inconsistent for a long time. Personally, I will not rule out Florentino Perez’s plan to offload them, and prepare for new arrivals in, maybe Erling Haaland? Players at loan in different clubs, including the likes of Luka Jovic, Jesus Vallejo had a relatively bad spell, and could be on their way out of the club.

If Zinedine Zidane decides to bless the club for further more seasons with his managerial masterclass, the addition of Takefusa Kubo, and Martin Odegaard can also prove to be a pivotal change for the club. 19 goals and assists this season takes Gareth Bale’s name on the front list to have that desire in proving his worth once again in front of Bernabeu faithfuls. Borja Mayoral netted in 17 different occasions for AS Roma, thus their arrivals in such fine form could spread a sigh of relief. Florentino Perez has remained silent for a long time in the transfer market. The demands amongst Madisitda, and the club’s sole motive to become Reyes de Europa once again may put him in a position, where he puts an interest on, maybe Harry Kane, or Kylian Mbappe. With Alaba signing nearing its official announcement, and the possible rumors of Rafael Varane planning for an exit, the club may also lookout for a new center back in Jules Kounde or Pau Torress.

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