While they have undoubtedly been the best team in the world over the last two seasons, particularly under the leadership of Zinedine Zidane. They have won three of the last four UEFA Champions League titles, in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and won the Spanish League title in 2017. While they boast some of the best players in the world, this season has been a bit of a miss for them. They started the season poorly in the league, but have since regained some form at the start of the year and are looking as one of the favourites to win the Champions League, making it the third year in a row.
Ronaldo has finally hit form
Much has been made of the gradual ageing process that Ronaldo has faced over recent seasons. After all, he has recently turned 33 and he is human, it’s only natural that he would lose his pace and physical attributes over time. He had a very poor start to the league season, at one point only having 4 goals despite having taken 92 total shots. However, since the New Year he has rediscovered his form and has since taken his league total to 18 goals in 22 games. While it can be argued that players such as Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric are just as, if not more vital to the team’s success, with Karim Benzema in decline and Gareth Bale constantly injured, the goal-scoring burden often falls on Ronaldo. This has rung true in the Champions League this season, as he is currently the top scorer with 12 goals in 8 games, with his standout performances in both legs against PSG in the round of 16 being the highlights of his campaign thus far. Their talisman has hit form at the right time, and could carry his side to European glory once again, turning what was once a lost season into a memorable one.
The brilliant thing about Zinedine Zidane as a manager is that even though he coaches a load of stars and egos, at a club with a reputation for star power, he isn’t afraid to make tactical changes that he feels will benefit the team. While he enjoyed a lot of his success last season playing a 4-4-2 diamond, he has switched it up recently opting for an old school flat 4-4-2, focusing more on a robust midfield and wide players delivering crosses into the box. The tactical shake ups have brought the best out of lesser used players, most notably Lucas Vazquez, who has proven himself to be a serviceable player for Madrid on the wings, doing the job that is required of him. The same can also be said for Mateo Kovacic, whom has deputised in midfield alongside the ever-improving Casemiro, whenever Luka Modric or Toni Kroos sit out due to rest or injury. In fact, its Zidane’s willingness to mix things up, or even rest players when need be that has allowed his team to finish their seasons strong, and it is a big reason why they have been able to have won back-to-back Champions League titles, while being on the hunt for a third in a row.
While those aspects may seem small and insignificant, they are the biggest reasons as to why Madrid can, and have turned their season around. Make no mistake that if Ronaldo is misfiring, they simply won’t be able to score as he is essentially their main striker these days. The fact that he is looking sharper and more clinical couldn’t come at a better time, as his goals are what’s helped them regain form in the league, and put them over the line against PSG in Europe. As for Zidane, the fact that he’s brave enough to change things tactically according to the needs of the team has not only allowed them to extend their season all the way to June, but has allowed them to stay relevant as he is able to keep the squad feeling fresh, and not burnt out and out of ideas tactically. These elements should help them remain as one of Europe’s elite clubs for this season, and more to come.