Every bit of criticism poured onto Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti is justified, but most of the time, it doesn’t matter. Cristiano Ronaldo can’t stop scoring goals during injury time, truly making something out of the nothing that is his team’s open play, while Karim Benzema is fading away into obscurity and Isco isn’t as good as advertised.
The bottom line isn’t just Ronaldo scoring a huge goal in terms of keeping up with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid; a 7-point deficit or worse this soon in the season is pretty much a sign you need to give up, because the last few years have taught us just how few points Barcelona are going to drop, not mention their city rivals being alarmingly consistent.
There was the Alvaro Morata moment, maybe the one that will finally push Karim Benzema out of the lineup. The young striker has been playing well during his off-the-bench appearances, and yet Ancelotti, who seems to be influenced by the pressure under him due to the five points dropped in the league, keeps giving Benzema, who is getting worse and worse with every match that goes by, the credit to start, doing nothing at all for around 60-70 minutes each time.
Angel di Maria might still be a second option once Gareth Bale comes back from his injury in a couple of weeks (more or less), but he’s Real Madrid’s best player at the moment, whether he’s playing on the right wing or moving into the middle, where Isco had his most ineffective match of the season, making it a streak of bad matches for a player that during the preseason and first three matches in the league and Europe looked like the kind of scoring help Cristiano Ronaldo needed.
Teams have realized just how important Isco is to Real Madrid quite quickly, and even with another playmaker like Luka Modric on the pitch, teams are focusing on the young Spaniard, who doesn’t seem to be moving well enough to find himself some open spaces to operate from. Isco needs a quicker pace, fitting the counter attacking style of the previous years. Right now, this slow and predictable offense just isn’t built to make him shine in it.
Luck plays a huge factor in football, and Real Madrid had quite a bit of it once again. Ronaldo’s shot wasn’t special: it simply deflected off someone well enough to fool the goalkeeper. But few players are willing to take shots from pretty much anywhere, especially with the match on the line. Winners carry their teams on their backs, especially through rough patches like these, which is about Real Madrid finding the Champions League very easy, yet quite difficult to replicate those performances a bit closer to home.
Ancelotti might have finally realized that Benzema isn’t the striker he needs, even thought that might not be enough to fix the problem of playing so badly in terms of having some fluidity and creativity in the midfield. Without Isco starting to regain his early form, another lineup problem will have to be solved, without some youth setup wonderkid to make it right.