Last weekend was a good one for Real Madrid, with Los Blancos closing the gap on the leaders Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid to three points.
It marked the halfway point in the season, a good place at which to look back at what’s gone on so far. And although with work still to do, Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti can be pleased with how the season is going.
The squad had to get used to a new manager in the summer, and there were comings and goings at the Bernabeu – the most high profile of which was Gareth Bale. On the field, despite a slow start, Madrid are going well in La Liga, eased through their Champions League group, and are into the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey.
Let’s have a month-by-month look back at the season so far:
Most of the talk was about activities off the field. The drawn out Gareth Bale transfer saga rumbled on, before Real Madrid finally got their man right at the end of the transfer window for 91 million euros. Other high profile signings to arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu were Isco from Malaga, and Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad. Various players went through the exit door at the Bernabeu too, including Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon – all to Napoli, and Mesut Ozil, to Arsenal.
While Madrid fans had to wait to see Bale in action, they found a new hero in Isco, who immediately endeared himself to the locals by playing a huge role in back-to-back wins over Real Betis and Granada in La Liga.
Los Blancos began the month with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao before Gareth Bale eventually wore the famous Madrid jersey for the first time, in the away trip to Villarreal. And the Welshman was an instant hit, scoring in the first half hour of his debut in the 2-2 draw.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men fired a warning to the rest of Europe by dismantling Galatasaray in the Champions League 6-1, while they also took maximum points in the league against Getafe and Elche, although they struggled to find top gear in those games.
The first major setback in the Ancelotti era occurred when Los Blancos lost to city rivas Atletico de Madrid at the Bernabeu. Diego Costa’s goal gave Los Colchoneros their first win in La Liga over the illustrious rivals for the first time since 1999, and ensured a second painful defeat in a matter of months, having won the Copa del Rey final there the previous May.
Off the field, there was good news though as Cristiano Ronaldo ended months of speculation surrounding his future by signing a new deal.
Los Menegues continued to cruise through their Champions League group with wins over Copenhagen and Juventus. In La Liga, they struggled to beat Levante – and were bailed out by a last gasp Ronaldo goal.
The focal point of the month came when Ancelotti took his side to the Camp Nou take on champions Barcelona. The 2-1 defeat suggests the game was closer than it actually was. The Italian manager came under pressure for his confusing tactics, while Gareth Bale was heavily criticized in the press for his below-par performance.
Los Blancos responded immediately to the defeat though, and thumped Sevilla 7-3 in their next league match, with Bale scoring twice.
Defensive problems seemed to be growing, with Madrid leaking goals a plenty. Thankfully, Bale and Ronaldo were in fine form. A narrow 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano was followed by 5-1 thumping of Real Sociedad. The team scored five more against Almeria too after the international break.
Another easy win in the Champions League over Galatasaray ensured progression to the next stages of the competition, and Gareth Bale ended the month in spectacular fashion, netting a perfect hat trick in the win over Valladolid.
Madrid eased past Olimpic de Xativa in the Copa del Rey at the start of the month, and rounded of the group stage of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Copenhagen. The draw was made for the last 16, where the nine-time winners will come up against Shalke 04.
In La Liga, Los Blancos had to fight from 2-0 down at Osasuna to grab a 2-2 draw, and they beat Valencia 3-2 before the winter break – leaving them five points off the top of the league.
2014 has started well for the team. Four games played, four wins, no goals conceded. Progression through to the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey has been ensured, and the gap at the top of La Liga has been cut.
Off the field, Ronaldo was named as the winner of the Ballon d’Or, while Xabi Alonso committed his future to the club, signing a new two-year deal.
Things are looking settled for the side now, and Madrid are looking strong going into the second half of the campaign. Hala Madrid!