Real Madrid are facing a huge battle even to compete with Barcelona in the La Liga title race after their calamitous start to the season. Los Blancos sacked manager Julen Lopetegui after their 5-1 hammering at the hands of their bitter rivals in El Clasico. Former player Santiago Solari has taken the reins and enjoyed a good start to his managerial career in the Bernabeu dugout, defeating Melilla in the Copa del Rey and Real Valladolid in the league.
Source: Squawka News via Twitter
However, problems still exist at the club, starting with the form of Madrid’s key players in the final third. Karim Benzema has had difficulties in front of goal for the past two years. It’s no surprise to see him continue to misfire. Gareth Bale’s issues are more of a concern for Solari and his potential successor. The Welshman was supposed to offset the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, taking the lead as the central figure for Los Blancos. Bale has struggled to find his clinical edge at the start of the campaign, scoring three goals in nine games in the league.
The 29-year-old has become a scapegoat for some Madrid supporters. Although his goals have secured two of the four Champions League crowns that the club have won since his arrival in 2013, he always played second fiddle to Ronaldo. Replacing the Portuguese was always going to be a difficult task, but the fact that neither of the two players that played alongside him have risen to the occasion has played a decisive role in the struggles of the team. The club went on their longest drought without scoring a goal in their history, lasting 481 minutes until Marcelo found the net in their defeat at the hands of Levante.
Madrid’s issues are reflected in the La Liga betting odds with the club backed at 5/1 to win the crown. Ronaldo made his intentions clear following the Champions League triumph over Liverpool that he was going to leave the Bernabeu. There was ample time for the Madrid hierarchy to develop a plan of action to replace the 33-year-old. The loss of Zinedine Zidane did not help matters, although Lopetegui was secured quickly before the World Cup where he was then sacked by Spain after accepting the post. They tread water in the transfer market, flirting with the prospect of Neymar and Eden Hazard, but neither deal looked anywhere near close to fruition. Thibaut Courtois was the highest profile move along with Vinicius Junior, although at the age of 18, the Brazilian was hardly ready to take a place in Madrid’s starting line-up and replace Ronaldo’s impact.
Trust was placed in Bale and Benzema, although the responsibility for goals would also have to be shared around the team. Marcelo and Sergio Ramos have played their part, but outside of Bale and Benzema, one of the biggest disappointments has been the performances of Marco Asensio. The 22-year-old has been a relative non-factor in the final third with only one strike to his name. Asensio is one of the players that Madrid supporters would have been looking at to take their play to the next level with more playing time. However, he has struggled immensely to contribute, epitomising the woes of Los Blancos this term.