Real Madrid have marched to a record 35th title convincingly

Real Madrid have marched to a record 35th title convincingly

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30 Apr 2022
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Beso
Carlo Ancelotti

The last time a team won the league with four games to spare was Ernesto Valverde’s first year with Barcelona, the 2017-18 season, when they beat second-place Atletico Madrid by 14 points.

The Los Blancos have won 4-0 over Espanyol

Whether you chalk Real Madrid’s European rollercoaster ride off to luck, magic or a superior mindset, their La Liga campaign has been quite the contrast. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have marched to a record 35th title convincingly, sealing it with a comfortable 4-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday, offering consistent and dependable performances with just a couple of hiccups along the way. The last time a team won the league with four games to spare was Ernesto Valverde’s first year with Barcelona, the 2017-18 season, when they beat second-place Atletico Madrid by 14 points. This year, the season could finish with a more significant gap still. When Madrid won the title in 2019-20, it was with just one match to spare, and at no point in the 21st century have they won the league this early. They have been top since week 13 and never looked like being deposed.

The team has strength in depth

To Madrid’s great credit, they have been hugely influential at both ends of the pitch, where it counts, while Ancelotti has had no qualms in allowing breakthrough star Vinicius Junior to play on the counter as it suits him. The squad has strength in depth, and Madrid have improved as the season has gone on, while their rivals have withered, except Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona. The coach’s arrival came too late to give the Catalans a chance to compete for the title. Despite Barca making the one serious blot on Madrid’s La Liga copybook, a painful 4-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu in March. With Ronald Koeman at the helm, Barcelona suffered for the first third of the season, and it was only when president Joan Laporta finally axed the Dutchman did they start to improve.

By contrast, other teams which started strongly like Sevilla and Real Sociedad faded away severely in 2022, while across town Atletico Madrid have been embroiled in an identity crisis since winning the league last season. Villarreal have saved their best performances for the Champions League, first leg at Anfield notwithstanding, while Real Betis have had a good campaign but are still 20 odd points off the pace. However, just because Madrid’s potential rivals have not delivered, their persistence and quality must be acknowledged. It would have been easy to look over their shoulders, smile and take their foot off the gas, but they came from two goals down to beat Sevilla 3-2 on April 17, proving their tenacity.

Benzema has scored 42 goals in 42 games

Before the Espanyol clash, they had won eight of the last nine league games, the one anomaly coming against Barcelona. The only other domestic defeat they have suffered in 2022 came against Getafe on January 2. One of the apparent keys to their success has been the form of talismanic striker Karim Benzema. This season, the Ballon d’Or front-runner has hit Cristiano Ronaldo-esque numbers, with 42 goals in 42 games. Although his performances have been elite for years, Benzema is significantly more decisive now than he has ever been before. The explosion of his strike partner Vinicius has contributed to that shift, who has found calmness in front of goal and deep in opposition territory under Ancelotti that looked like it might never arrive.

Thibaut Courtois has arguably enjoyed the best season of his career

In this campaign, Vinicius has already outscored his goal tallies from his previous three seasons (15) and has formed a dynamic partnership with the French striker. It was fitting that they combined again for Madrid’s fourth and final goal against Espanyol. Thibaut Courtois has arguably enjoyed the best season of his career at the other end of the pitch, making several stunning saves to earn Madrid points. Only Sevilla have let in fewer goals than Real Madrid this season. In April, the Belgian made a string of incredible stops against Celta Vigo, which helped Madrid snatch a narrow victory and ensured they didn’t let the Barca thrashing knock them off the rails. Another vital incorporation has been Austrian defender David Alaba, arriving from Bayern Munich on a free transfer and instantly filling Sergio Ramos’s role of defensive leader.

Luka Modric has pulled the team through games with his experience and quality

The centre-back has forged a strong partnership with Eder Militao, ensuring that Madrid’s defensive icon, and Raphael Varane, have not been missed – at either end. Alaba netted the opener against Osasuna on April 20 and did the same against Barcelona at Camp Nou in Madrid’s 2-1 win last October. Although midfielders Casemiro and Toni Kroos have not enjoyed their finest years, the evergreen Luka Modric, 36, has pulled the team through games with his experience and quality. The Croatian has agreed on a new deal with Madrid to stay for at least one and, potentially, two more years, which should be announced soon. Behind Modric, Madrid have midfield cover in Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde. This duo has become more critical as the season has progressed, while Rodrygo and Marco Asensio have chipped in with goals in attack.

The likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Marcelo and Isco, former superstars, have barely got a look in, with Nacho and Lucas Vazquez among those who have stepped up and performed when required. These hard-working extra parts have helped Madrid become machine-like on their charge towards domestic glory, and now they can entirely turn their attention to their altogether less predictable European advance.

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