Real Madrid are in the midst of a staggering run of matches. The La Liga giants have won twenty straight matches in all competitions heading into this evening’s FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Mexican side, Cruz Azul.
Los Blancos last defeat was on September 13th in the Madrid derby when Diego Simeone’s men walked out of the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-1 victory. Since that time, Real Madrid have not dropped a single point and have outscored their opponents 75-9 in all competitions.
Madrid are on top of La Liga with 39 points after 15 league matches and sit four points above second place Barcelona.
They are a team – if you haven’t had time to watch up until now – you need to make time to see from this point forward. Madrid are an amazing collection of talent who are playing as a beautiful cohesive unit and simply jaw-dropping to watch.
You will find yourself shaking your head in disbelief at times. They are a once in a lifetime squad.
Cristiano Ronaldo is having one of the best season’s of his already legendary career. The 29-year-old forward has scored 32 goals and tallied 9 assists in all competitions and is the favorite to win his third Ballon d’Or next month.
There is not much to criticize about this team heading into the FIFA Club World Cup. Since a brief stutter at the start of the 2014-15 campaign, the squad as a whole has been hitting on all cylinders.
Usually, the greatest dangers a club faces when it has hit its stride so early in the season are fatigue and injuries to key personnel.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has had to deal with a handful of these setbacks as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have both spent time in the training room. While influential midfielder Luka Modric suffered a damaged tendon on the muscle near the top of his hip – an injury that has ruled him out of action until February at the least.
But Ancelotti has options at his disposal, and the Italian boss has done a perfect job of slotting players into the Madrid lineup when it has been needed so far this season.
For the most part, the manager has used the same fourteen players in each of Madrid’s 26 matches this year. That continuity has allowed the side to grow familiar with each other and strengthen their play on the field.
A growing concern in Madrid is that Ancelotti is relying too heavily on these fourteen individuals. The season hasn’t even reached its halfway point and there are players in the squad who have only had one or two games off.
Midfielder Toni Kroos has only been rested once this season, during Real Madrid’s final Champions League group match against Ludogorets. The 24-year-old won a World Cup with Germany this summer and has now played in 25 of Madrid’s 26 matches this season.
Kroos has shown moments recently were his play and passing seemed labored.
Ronaldo, Marcelo and James Rodriguez have played in fourteen of the club’s fifteen league matches; with only a handful of rest period between them (Ronaldo and James weren’t really “rested”, they were recovering from injuries).
Sergio Ramos has played in thirteen La Liga matches, both matches of the Spanish Supercopa versus Atletico Madrid, the UEFA Super Cup and four Champions League group stages matches. The 28-year-old defender was briefly injured and that is the only reason why he hasn’t started every match for the Spanish giants.
There are others…but you get the point.
Ancelotti needs to find a way to rest his players or risk burning them out towards the end of the season.
What good is all the record breaking now if the team can’t close the deal in March, April and May?
It’s a subject that is being addressed behind closed doors in Madrid.
The club’s pursuit of Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva has picked up in recent weeks because of the injury to Modric and Ancelotti’s lack of faith in the individuals playing behind Toni Kroos in the center of the pitch.
The manager’s main concern with signing the Cruzeiro player is that he is unsure the 21-year-old will be able to step in right away and contribute in January.
Madrid are also rumored to be eyeing up reinforcements in defense to limit the wear-and-tear on players such as Ramos and Marcelo who cover a lot of ground during matches.
For now, Ancelotti is pointing to a brief break in the team’s schedule following the completion of the FIFA Club World Cup. The manager fells that the coming ten-day break (which is really a five day break, since Madrid have to return to training before their next match) will be enough to replenish the player’s aching bodies.
One thing for sure, Ancelotti has proven that he is a master tactician, motivator and football manager. The Italian has shown time and time again in many countries that he understands how to keep his squad fresh and motivated throughout a campaign.
Real Madrid fans are hoping Ancelotti once again calls the right shots while Los Blancos continue their march on what could be one of the more magical seasons in European club football.
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