Real Madrid moved top of the table last weekend following Barcelona’s and Sevilla’s slip ups in their respective games combined with Los Blancos’ emphatic win over Granada. Los Blancos have completed an amazing run of 12 straight wins since September 13th, when they lost to city rivals Atletico.
Many things have changed since the derby, when Los Merengues picked up their second defeat in a row, giving Barcelona an early six-point advantage in La Liga. Real Madrid have arguably become the strongest team in Europe at the moment, and it isn’t difficult to guess why.
1. A world-record attack.
Los Blancos score an average four goals per game. The arrival of James Rodriguez has added an extra spice to the attack, and that has turned into every game becoming a goal feast. The Colombian and Karim Benzema play a key role in creating spaces for their team-mates thanks to their mobility and their intelligence. Cristiano Ronaldo benefits from their work and their assists. In fact, the Portuguese is in the best scoring form of his career, having netted more goals himself than 16 La Liga clubs.
2. Isco’s resurgence.
The young Andalusian got past a wobbly first season at the Santiago Bernabeu. In his second year, he has matured to become a more complete player than he was when he led Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2012. He has improved his defensive commitment and plays a key part in balancing the team, something that Gareth Bale and James lacked at the start of the season. He’s got total freedom to do has he pleases in attack, and he has found his best game sharing the play-making zone with James, where both are masters of the final pass.
3. The midfield pair.
Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have adapted perfectly to their new role in the team. Both of them grew up playing in a more offensive position, featuring very often as a number ten. The fact that Madrid play without a holding midfielder has forced them to take a more demanding part, and they are nailing it. The two together combine 107 interceptions in the league to date, and their hard work in helping the defence has been crucial. Plus, they’re as inspired as usual when it comes to organizing the offensive and launching the counter-attacks. Thanks to them, nobody misses Xabi Alonso at all.
4. Ancelotti’s character.
When things have gone wrong, Ancelotti’s serene nature has helped calm nerves and focus on working harder to improve. Under Jose Mourinho every defeat was the beginning of a conflict with the press, the players or the fans. Ancelotti has become Los Blancos’ peace-maker, always showing a positive attitude which he passes on to his players.
5. The game style.
For the past few years, Real Madrid has become famous for their perfect counter-attacking, but apart from that there were not other characteristics that could help identify their game. With Isco, Modric, Kroos and James playing in midfield, Los Blancos have built a new style that combines a possession-based mentality with defensive commitment, without losing their superb counter-attacking. Ancelotti seems to have found the perfect balance he was looking for, and his team has come to dominate every aspect of the game.