It might be absurd to ask Cristiano Ronaldo, already scoring 8 league goals this season, to do a better job at finishing than he has so far, but Real Madrid seem to be so bad this season when it comes to finishing the chances they are able to create, be it Alvaro Morata or Karim Benzema in the starting lineup, it once again falls on the shoulder of their best player.
Ronaldo actually had to wait till the 91st minute to get his goal in the 2-0 win over Malaga, having quite a frustrating performance up to that point with miss after miss, not being alone in terms of missing the target. Alvaro Morata was a lot more active than what we usually see from Karim Benzema, but whenever his skill set was required to score goals instead of just some impressive dribbling in the box, he failed to live up to the promise.
Real’s only goal from open play came from Angel di Maria, who just might be their best player this season aside from Cristiano Ronaldo. He has no problem switching from wing to the middle at any moment, combining his shooting and passing ability with Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo almost to full effect, which would have been achieved if they were just more accurate against a team that showed no intention of trying to do anything but concede as little as possible before going home.
Even if Carlo Ancelotti once again proved just how unimaginative he is when picking a lineup, using both defensive midfielders to play behind Isco instead of using Luka Modric next to Isco and not instead of him, it didn’t matter. Real Madrid had no problem with possession or creating chances, only the finishing was so poor it was hard to be too pleased in a match they were going to dominate anyway.
While finishing is something that changes from match to match, the continuing disappointment of the Gareth Bale phenomenon isn’t. Playing for the first time since being sidelined with an injury, Bale did absolutely nothing on the right win except for one dangerous cross. He might be a bit fitter and more prepared to handle more than a cameo appearance in the match against Barcelona, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Real Madrid are a better team right now without him, not to mention Ancelotti using Bale in the wrong way by playing him on the right wing.
It’ll be interesting to see if Ancelotti uses the same lineup against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, especially when it comes to right back Dani Caravajal, who is a much better attacker than Alvaro Arbeloa, but isn’t as strong physically and less experiences in matches of his magnitude. However, Arboeloa has been awful so far this season, and experience can’t cover for everything.
The eyes, as usual, will fall on Ronaldo to deliver. He’s done quite well against Barcelona, especially in the last couple of years, but as chances will be a bit more difficult to create against the league leaders, a more clinical touch is a must if Real Madrid are to narrow the margin between the teams even further by the end of next week.