Three months into the 2017/18 European football season and Real Madrid is struggling.
After winning back-to-back Champions League titles and a major double last season, Los Blancos were expected to continue their dominance. And they looked set to do so after their performance against Manchester United in the European Super Cup and their thrashing of Barcelona over the course of two legs in the Spanish Super Cup.
It was the Merengues who were flying while their arch-rivals were — and technically still are — in the midst of a bureaucratic crisis, which everyone anticipated would spill over to the field. Instead, it is the Blaugrana and not Real Madrid who find themselves having a good run in all competitions— sitting comfortably atop the league, look set to top their group in the Champions League and have comfortably progressed to the next round of the Copa del Rey.
Real Madrid, in contrast, is sitting fourth in La Liga — eight points behind Barcelona, are almost certain to finish second in their Champions League group and turned in an embarrassing performance at the Bernabéu against third league team Fuenlabrada in the Copa del Rey.
There are a number of reasons behind the club’s misfortunes. They haven’t been able to field the BBC in months, players are off-form, Ronaldo and the team, in general, are shooting blanks, injuries have taken a toll— Bale and Kovacic both suffered serious injuries— and most importantly, the club hadn’t sufficiently replaced Morata, Mariano and James.
Things could get worse for the team too.
They are about to begin a rather difficult schedule. They travel to Basque country to meet Atheltic Bilbao on Saturday, who are themselves in the midst of a small crisis. Los Leones currently sit 16th in the league but when it comes to, their league position doesn’t matter. The San Mamés is a notoriously difficult stadium to play in and can be a source of disappointment for Real Madrid.
Los Blancos then welcomes Dortmund to the Bernabéu on Wednesday for their final Champions League group game of the season, followed by Sevilla three days later. The club then travels for the Club World Cup semi-final and final between December 13th and 16th, and then it’s back to Spain for El Clásico on December 23rd in the Bernabéu.
This is a very crucial period for Real Madrid and they are all must-win games, with the exception of, maybe, the game against Dortmund.
The tides could— and have to— begin to change for the club starting on Saturday. Zidane was able to welcome back Bale to the team on Tuesday and his return could coincide with a turn in the team’s fortunes. His cameo against Fuenlabrada was what prevented Real Madrid from being the laughing stock of La Liga teams in the Copa, as he had a hand in both goals.
A lack of goals and an out of sync backline has been a great source of pain for Real Madrid this season and Bale’s return could remedy that to an extent.