PETE JENSON: Real Madrid’s season is threatening to descend into CHAOS after two shock defeats… the defence looks broken without Varane and Ramos, Benzema is isolated and injuries are forcing Ancelotti to tinker
- Real Madrid’s season is in danger of falling apart after two worrying defeats
- Carlo Ancelotti’s men lost to minnows Sheriff and were beaten 2-1 by Espanyol
- The defence needs sorting out after a handful of high profile departures
- Meanwhile, Karim Benzema needs support and the squad is still not fully fit
- Sportsmail takes a look at the biggest problems Real Madrid need to solve
Carlo Ancelotti would have taken being top of LaLiga going into the second break for internationals, but not in these circumstances.
Madrid could only draw against Villarreal nine days ago, they were beaten by Champions League debutants Sheriff in midweek, and on Sunday Espanyol beat them comfortably.
Two straight defeats mean the Madrid coach has to go back to the drawing board. Sportsmail focuses on what has to change before the side’s next LaLiga game against bitter rivals Barcelona in late October.
Real Madrid’s poor recent form continued on Sunday as they were beaten 2-1 by Espanyol
Real Madrid have only kept a clean sheet three times so far this season and it’s starting to get to Thibaut Courtois, who looked exasperated on Sunday.
David Alaba was beaten down the Madrid left by Adrian Embarba for the first Espanyol goal. Central defender Eder Militao then failed to come across to block the shot and although Lucas Vazquez tracked the run of Raul de Tomas he couldn’t stop him scoring.
Madrid’s old back four of Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo is now a distant memory and progress has been slow in building a new one.
Their defence looks troubled and Ancelotti should settle on David Alaba (L) and Eder Militao (R)
Nacho was pulled out of position and then nutmegged ahead of Espanyol’s second goal on Sunday and he does not look like he’s going to be able to make the step up from stand-in utility defender covering positions across the back four when players are missing, to 40-games-a-season defensive lynchpin.
Lucas Vazquez is also struggling to become a full-back after years as a winger. Ancelotti needs to settle on Alaba and Militao as a pair and let them develop an understanding.
That means leaving Nacho at right-back while Dani Carvajal is out and trusting 20-year-old Miguel Gutierrez at left-back, at least until Ferland Mendy returns.
With 10 goals so far this season, including nine in LaLiga it’s no wonder every Real Madrid supporter’s worse fear is that Benzema gets injured.
While he is fit to play he needs support. The decision to leave both Rodrygo and Eden Hazard on the bench against Espanyol meant there was only Vinicius to support the Frenchman.
The plan for Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde to also get forward never really worked. The 4-3-3 system with Benzema flanked by two attacking players gives opposing defences more to deal with.
Karim Benzema has cut an isolated figure up front and needs support despite scoring 10 goals
FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE IN MIDFIELD
Casemiro has started the season slowly. Toni Kroos has only just started his season because of injury. And Luka Modric seems to have dropped down a couple of gears too.
Madrid have a rejuvenated midfield with Camavinga and Valverde impressive so far and 21-year-old Antonio Blanco a fine prospect in Casemiro’s position.
But Ancelotti is reluctant to use Blanco and not sure how to get the best out of Camavinga and Valverde. There has also been an attempt to turn Marco Asensio into a midfielder but although he scored three times against Mallorca, it doesn’t look like a transition that will be easy to make.
Madrid’s biggest problem is recovering defensive shape when the opposition wins the ball from them and launches quick counters – backtracking at pace is not his strength.
Madrid need to find balance in midfield and recover defensive shape when they lose the ball
STOP TINKERING, CARLO
This is difficult to do with the current injury crisis but if the system at least could be settled on, even without the same personnel.
Alaba is not the only player who has had to move positions at the start of this season. Valverde has recently been moved from full-back to wide midfield and back again, and the coach appeared to try three different systems in the same game on Sunday. None of them worked.
Games are coming thick and fast for the top teams because of European football and clearly there is a desire to not burn out the same 11 players, but he is in danger taking the tinkering too much.
His one excuse for that, is that injuries are currently preventing him from naming a settled side.
Carlo Ancelotti is tinkering far too much, but he is being forced to do so due to injuries
TIME IS A HEALER
Because Madrid’s game against Athletic Bilbao is postponed because of returning internationals from South America, they are not in LaLiga action again for another three weeks.
That ought to give Mendy time to get back and give Hazard three more weeks to approach the sort of physical condition that means he can start games instead of coming off the bench.
Modric, Kroos and Casemiro might also be at different levels come the Clasico.
Ancelotti is an old hand at getting the best out of older players and there have been glimpses this season that Hazard is approaching levels that are at least close to those he maintained at Chelsea.
The Clasico on October 24 ought to be marked in red on his calendar – Madrid need him to lead and with physical problems, for now behind him, this could be the big game in which he finally delivers.
The international break should allow Eden Hazard more time to get fit and return to top form
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