Ronaldo absence leaves Real Madrid exposed

Source: Ronaldocomps via Twitter

Real Madrid have shown the signs of a crumbling dynasty in the early stages of the 2018/19 season as Julen Loeptegui has struggled in the early stages of his reign. It has been a tumultuous year for Lopetegui as he was sacked on the eve of the 2018 World Cup by Spain after agreeing to replace Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu. Madrid are already breaking records under their new manager for the wrong reasons, enduring the second worst goal drought of their history.

Another blank in front of goal next time out would see Lopetegui’s men break the record from the 1984/85 campaign where Madrid failed to score for 496 minutes. Given the talent on the field it’s astounding that they are struggling to find the net, although the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo may explain their issues. The Portuguese guaranteed a goal every game during his time at the Bernabeu. He always rose to the occasion when his side needed a moment of inspiration.

Ronaldo continues to shine for Juventus whereas his team-mates back in Madrid are looking for answers for their stuttering start to the campaign. Only similar struggles by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have kept them on pace in the La Liga title race, with Lopetegui’s men backed at 11/4 in the La Liga betting odds to win the crown. However, defeats at the hands of Sevilla and Alves have displayed a vulnerability, while even the Champions League has not provided a respite losing 1-0 against CSKA Moscow on the road. Madrid’s period of dominance in Europe was always going to end at some point. Zidane may have recognised this and bowed out on a high note rather than go through the pitfalls of an underwhelming season. Lopetegui has inherited an ageing squad, lacking in depth in key areas, which injuries to Gareth Bale and Isco have already exposed.

Source: Football_Sins via Twitter

Madrid spent a lot of time in the summer attempting to acquire Thibaut Courtois. He’s a fine goalkeeper, but Keylor Navas proved in three-straight seasons in the Champions League to be a more than capable stopper. It has left other areas of the team lacking in options behind elite starters. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane are an excellent tandem in the middle of the back four, but Nacho Fernandez is the only cover as Jesus Vallejo displayed his weaknesses last term.

The middle of the park has three outstanding players in the form of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. Madrid are fine when all three are operating on the pitch. Problems will emerge and have been an issue when they’re not available. Dani Ceballos is a good player, but does not have the quality of Modric or Kroos to pick a pass in the final third. Marco Asensio has not developed a consistency to his performances as of yet, although given his age – it will come with further time on the field. Marco Llorente has not been given much of an opportunity, which suggests that he may not be an option to play significant games this term.

In the final third there’s nothing proven at the highest level behind the front three. Mariano Diaz enjoyed a strong season at Lyon last year and scored on his return to the Bernabeu. Whether he can translate that form in Spain on a consistent basis is another matter. Madrid spent big to acquire Vincius Junior’s services from Flamengo, but at this stage of his career he cannot be expected to find the net with regularity. Bale has been prone to injuries over the last few years of his career, while Isco had an appendectomy that could knock him out for a short period of time.  Benzema has scored five goals already this term, but he has been far from prolific in front of goal recently. Madrid have a lot of issues that won’t be solved overnight. Lopetegui faces a challenge on his hands to make his team a force in La Liga and the Champions League this term.