To the outside observer, Real Madrid appear to be in a good position in both its domestic and European competitions.
Rafa Benitez’s side are currently on top of La Liga on goal difference and level on points with Paris Saint-Germain in Group A of the Champions League.
The team has engineered its first place standing despite the early struggles of star man Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as having to cope with injuries to key personnel such as Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale.
While the importance of these players goes without saying, the championship fortunes of Real Madrid – in both Spain and Europe – will weight heavily on whether or not the team will have a healthy James Rodriguez in its starting eleven.
James has not featured for Los Blancos since a 5-0 victory over Real Betis on August 29. The Colombian international scored twice during that contest – including a stunning free kick from the edge of the area – before departing for the international break.
In early September, during a match against Peru, the midfielder picked up a knee injury following a heavy tackle and has not featured for club or country since.
While Real Madrid have not lost during James’ ten-match absence. There is a concern around the Bernabeu that the club will once again fail to achieve its title targets without the 24-year-old Colombian pulling the strings and scoring goals for Los Blancos.
Looking solely at La Liga statistics, the effect of James’ absence to Real Madrid’s wins and losses is noticeable. The club wins 87% of its matches with the midfielder in the lineup; without him that figure drops to 62%.
While those numbers are not as resounding in other competitions (i.e. – Champions League and Copa del Rey), Real Madrid still sees its success rate drop off by 10% without James on the pitch.
Real Madrid’s goal scoring also takes a dip when the Colombian is not healthy. The team nets 2.8 goals per game when the 24-year-old plays and 2.1 goals when he does not.
Los Blancos also concede more goals when the versatile player is not in the squad, averaging 1.3 goals conceded without him compared to 1.1 goals when he’s in the squad.
Last season, Real Madrid were heavy favorites both domestically and in Europe, and were on course for what appeared to be a historical campaign after winning the FIFA Club World Cup in December.