clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Real Madrid's Mid-Season Report

Happy New Year! At the halfway stage of the season, we look back at how this Real Madrid squad have progressed so far.

How you doing there?
How you doing there?
Warren Little/Getty Images

It's been a great season so far for Los Blancos but despite our brilliant recent success, including winning the Club World Cup amid a 22 game consecutive winning streak, we're still only halfway there with a lot of hard work to do and many games to look forward to. But whilst that's all yet to come let's look back at what has already been.

August: 2 Wins, 1 Draw, 2 Losses

The month of August started off brilliantly as Real Madrid beat a Sevilla side by 2 goals to 0 in comfortable fashion to win their first trophy of the season - the UEFA Super Cup! Gareth Bale started off proceedings by whipping in a beautiful long cross which found Cristiano Ronaldo who applied the simple finish. Ancelotti's new look, more pass orientated Real Madrid controlled the game with the addition of the midfield metronome Toni Kroos and shortly after the break Ronaldo and Karim Benzema combined with a neat one-two to set the former through on goal and he lashed a left-footed shot past his countryman Beto to make it 2-0 and wrap the game up. It was an accomplished performance from Europe's leading team.

However that was as good as August got for Carlo Ancelotti's men. The next match they drew against city rivals Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Supercopa de España. The game was largely uneventful and mainly consisted of Atléti fouling the Real Madrid players; so much so that Cristiano Ronaldo had to be taken off at half-time as a precaution. Eventually James Rodríguez opened the scoring with an opportunistic but deserved goal ten minutes from time. Unfortunately Real couldn't hold on and conceded against Diego Simeone's hatchet men from yet another corner kick, Raúl Gárcia the beneficiary of a defence that didn't communicate properly as he steered in at the back post to level it up. It was an extremely frustrating match for all Madridista's to have to endure.

The return leg at Vicente Calderón was even worse for Los Blancos as they lost the game 1-0 and the chance for a six-trophy haul in one season. It was Mario Mandžukić who scored the solitary goal of the contest in the 2nd minute as Madrid struggled to deal with the early tempo that Atléti set. The defence was caught cold by a long ball up the field as they failed to clear and the big Croatian pounced to ensure Atléti got some revenge for their capitulation in Lisbon a few months beforehand. It was an extremely scrappy affair truth be told and the rest of game was actually quite torturous to watch, perhaps because it was hopelessly boring as Real Madrid were unable to fashion any quality chances to equalise.

Next up came newly promoted Córdoba in the first Liga BBVA game of the season. It was surprisingly quite a difficult match for the lads in white as they struggled to create openings against Córdoba's close-knit defensive lines. Eventually after half an hour of frustration, a Toni Kroos corner found the head of Karim Benzema and Madrid were ahead. A disappointing second half continued to pose problems. Real were unable to stretch their lead and the match was in the balance as Córdoba were threatening the goal of Iker Casillas but fortunately they were unable to score. Cristiano Ronaldo finally doubled Real's advantage and killed the match off one minute from time to the relief of the Santiago Bernabéu crowd.

August was rounded off in horrible fashion as the team put in a frankly embarrassing performance away to Real Sociedad. And yet, the match started perfectly. Ramos scored his first of the season with a thumping header from a Kroos corner. Bale doubled the advantage just minutes later and Madrid were flying. In fact, they were dominating and did so for the first half an hour of the game. And then, it happened. Real conceded yet again from a corner kick and 5 minutes later Zurutuza headed in after a defensive lapse in concentration to put Sociedad level heading (pun not intended) into the break. The second half completed Sociedad's comeback with Zurutuza getting a brace and Carlos Vela smashing the fourth into the roof of the net from the six yard box. A drab and uninspired performance from Los Blancos left many wondering if the summer's transfer activity was a mistake.

A month that had started so promisingly ended with morale at rock bottom after some awful performances but that being said, the team still managed to add another trophy to the club's history. 3/10

September: 4 Wins, 1 Loss

With Madridista spirit's seemingly on life support, the first match of September did little to raise them as Madrid competed against Atlético Madrid once again in the first Derbi Madrileño of the Liga season. Annoyingly, it was once again a goal from a corner kick that allowed Atléti to open the scoring and Tiago took advantage of that by heading home. Cristiano Ronaldo however produced a big moment of skill and quality in order to win and score the resultant penalty gained from Siqueira's foul. After the equaliser, Real Madrid began to exert their class and dominated the end of the first half. Unfortunately, they didn't keep it up and Arda Turan was left unmarked inside the box to win Atléti the match. The fans at the Santiago Benabéu were far from pleased and whistled some of the players - never a pleasant sight. The loss meant that Real slumped to their third defeat in their last four games.

Little did we know what was to come. Nobody would've thought after the latest loss to Atléti that this Real Madrid squad would go on to build one of the most unique and impressive transformations ever seen; to turn around the season and get the ship steering in the right direction again. The first signs of this came in the game against Basel which quite frankly was a whitewash. The first came courtesy of a Marek Suchý own goal after great work from Nacho and James Rodríguez down the right hand side. Then Modrić took over the match. He provided a wonderful through-ball for Gareth Bale to run on to and score and a few minutes later he was at it again putting Bale through who squared for Ronaldo to tap in. James Rodríguez also got his name on the score-sheet before the half. Ramos was then caught out of position for Derlis González to pull one back for Basel before Benzema completed the rout after a neat one-two with Ronaldo. Finally, a good performance from the team.

From there on, September only became better. The next match saw Real score more goals than they have in any other match this season and also break a club record for the number of goals scored in an away league game as they thrashed newly promoted Deportivo 2-8 at the Riazor. The first came courtesy of a superhuman header from Cristiano Ronaldo assisted by Álvaro Arbeloa's cross. Then James Rodríguez hit an arrow of a shot into the top corner before Ronaldo added another from distance after a comedy of errors in the Deportivo back line. In the second half, Deportivo were awarded a penalty which they converted before Bale hit a brace to instantly crush their hopes. Ronaldo completed his hat-trick and Javier Hernández scored a brace after coming on for the last 15 minutes. Toché's unmarked consolation goal only proved that despite having an abundance of weapons in attack, Madrid still needed to sort out some of their calamitous defending.

Elche were the next team to face Los Blancos and they too didn't manage to escape the 90 minutes without taking a real hiding. Funnily enough, it was Elche who took the lead from the penalty spot however through Albacar, following a ridiculous call against Ronaldo for handball. Their lead didn't last long as James Rodríguez swung in a cross for Bale to head in. Then Clos Gómez awarded a second incorrect penalty - this time for a 'trip' on Marcelo. Ronaldo did the honours and smashed home from the spot before pouncing to score another just a few minutes later with a leaping header. In fact, the incumbent Ballon d'Or holder decided that wasn't enough and bagged another couple in the second half to complete the scoring. That made it 7 goals in 2 games for him and 13 goals in the last 4 days for Real Madrid. What a turnaround from the first match of the month!

The final side to face Madrid in September were Villarreal in what turned out to be a closer fought contest for Los Blancos than the previous three matches. Villarreal started the game well with a fast tempo that the Real Madrid midfield were finding hard to handle. But they weathered the storm and eventually found enough space to play their passing football in the Villarreal half. On the half hour mark this led to a Luka Modrić cracker which found the back of the net and 10 minutes later the match was effectively over when Karim Benzema squared for Ronaldo to finish simply. The second half was quite cagey. Illarramendi came on to help the defence and Los Blancos managed to close the game out and begin a run of keeping more clean sheets than they were.

All in all, September was a far more fruitful month for Real Madrid as they recorded some fantastic victories with many goals however it was still soured somewhat by another derby loss to Atlético. Still, a much improved Real allowed the current winning streak to be born. 7/10

October: 6 Wins

The month of October began with an away trip to Sofia to face Ludogorets Razgrad in our second Champion's League group stage game of the season. It certainly wasn't the comfortable game most Madridista's were expecting. In fact, it was the Bulgarian's who took the early lead with Marcelinho heading home from a corner, evidence of Real's Achilles heel costing them again. However, it didn't take long for Madrid to respond as Chicharito won a penalty before Ronaldo stepped up only to have it saved by Vladislav Stojanov. Fortunately another penalty was justly awarded just a few minutes later and this time Ronaldo dispatched it. However, the players who were rotated in were struggling to make much of an impact against the stubborn Ludogorets defence and eventually Karim Benzema came on from the bench to score the winning goal after great work from Marcelo and James Rodríguez. A sigh of relief.

Cristiano Ronaldo stole the show once again in a match against Athletic Bilbao that Real Madrid won comfortably without playing brilliantly. The Portugese phenom scored his first in the 2nd minute of the match before Karim Benzema doubled the lead with a good header from a Kroos corner. After the break, it was Ronaldo at it again before he provided Benzema with a delicious assist to get his brace. A comical deflection off Pepe's header completed yet another hat-trick for the talismanic forward. A consummate victory for Madridistas to enjoy as the team recorded their sixth straight win and really picked up form.

Madrid replicated their 5-0 win at home to Athletic away in Valencia where they faced Levante. Ancelotti made rotations for this game as it was after a recent international break. A James Rodríguez through ball to Chicharito set up the first goal as the Mexican was pulled down in the box allowing Ronaldo to calmly convert the penalty. Levante nearly struck back from a set-piece but it was cleared brilliantly off the line by Luka Modrić. James and Isco ran the show. First James assisted Chicharito with a perfect pass before Isco played Ronaldo through to make it 3-0. Then the pair scored one each themselves. James managed to get on the scoresheet courtesy of a great pass from Toni Kroos whilst Isco lashed one in from distance after Chicharito's pass. It was another drubbing in La Liga and a complete performance.

October's great run didn't end there however. A trip to Anfield was in order to face a team Los Blancos had never previously beat: Liverpool. What followed was a professional performance where by all accounts Real Madrid outclassed Liverpool and showed their title winning pedigree. The first 20 minutes of the game started off very competitively but as time wore on Madrid managed to up their intensity and began to dictate the tempo and pace with their superior passing and pressing. It resulted in the first goal. James hit a lobbed pass over the defence for Ronaldo to run on to and score with a delightful first touch on the ball. Benzema doubled the lead shortly after with a lobbed header over Mignolet from Kroos deep cross before he poached a third for Los Blancos in a breath-taking first half. 18 minutes was all it took to dismantle Liverpool's hopes of getting any result from the contest. Real coasted in the 2nd half with the upcoming Clásico in mind and recorded their fourth straight clean sheet.

The first El Clásico of the season arrived and many thought that it would be evenly matched or that Barcelona had the slight advantage going into the match due to their defensive record up to that point. What followed was the most dominant display Madrid has had against the Blaugranes since before the Pep Guardiola era. However, it was Barcelona who struck first courtesy of a debut Suárez assist for Neymar who took advantage of some poor defending to cut inside and strike to the bottom corner. That was as good as it got for Barcelona as Madrid regrouped and swiftly retaliated, but not before Casillas reacted excellently to deny Messi. After that Barcelona rarely troubled Madrid with their spells of possession and it was Los Blancos who created the better opportunities. A Marcelo cross was blatantly handled by Piqué who gave the referee no option but to point to the penalty spot. Ronaldo stepped up and converted as he often does. Pepe then put Madrid in front with a thunderous header from a Toni Kroos corner which served to highlight Barcelona's aerial deficiencies for the umpteenth time. Madrid's 4-4-2 formation prevented Barcelona from finding any space and they punished the Culé's with a blistering counter-attack assisted by James Rodríguez and finished by Karim Benzema. The rest of the game passed with Real Madrid outplaying Barcelona and they should have scored more but it remained 3-1.

The month was capped off by a first leg match against Cornellà in the Copa del Rey round of 32. It was competitive game and the Cornellà fans managed to help their team close the gap. Unfortunately for them it didn't take long for Madrid to take the lead off a towering Raphael Varane header from James' corner kick. Credit to Cornellà, they equalised pretty quickly. A defensive mix-up between Arbeloa and Varane allowed Oscar Munoz to fire past a helpless Keylor Navas. Varane scored again off another corner kick this time assisted by Isco to regain the lead for Real. Shortly after half-time, Chicharito killed the game off with an accurate shot. Cornellà continued to fight admirably but Madrid made it four goals when Marcelo fired in the rebound from Isco's initial shot and that's how it ended.

October was the month that this Real Madrid squad showed us their true quality. They built great chemistry and it served them to topple an in-form Barcelona team and also put Liverpool in their place too whilst providing Madridista's with dazzling performances. 10/10

November: 6 Wins

Madrid picked up where they left off in November as they first faced Granada in Andalusia. It was a comfortable game in which Granada never showed they were capable of challenging the capital club. In fact they were down after just one minute when Dani Carvajal and Karim Benzema combined to provide for Cristiano Ronaldo who made no mistake. This early goal relaxed Los Blancos and probably gave James Rodríguez the confidence to pull off what might be the goal of the Liga season in the form of a stunning volley to the top corner of Roberto's goal. Like most, Granada couldn't handle Madrid's offensive firing squad and it was Ronaldo this time who put the ball on a plate for Benzema who finished smartly. Luka Modrić dominated the midfield and Granada were unable to keep possession. James stole a goal in the final stages of the game to round off a dominant display.

The return match against Liverpool in the Champion's League group stage might be the most frustrating match that Real Madrid will win all season. This is because whilst Madrid completely dominated the game, they were unable to add to their one goal advantage that had been supplied by the brilliant Karim Benzema and it ended 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu. To illustrate the superiority Madrid possessed, I'll point out a telling statistic. Real managed to get 27 shots off against Liverpool, 12 of which were blocked, whilst the Reds only managed a single shot on target. Still, it made for the 12th consecutive victory for Carlo Ancelotti's men.

Local neighbours Rayo Vallecano were the next team to try to stop the juggernaut that Madrid had become and in the first half one may have thought that possible. Gareth Bale opened the scoring early assisted by Toni Kroos. However, after that early goal Rayo really put in a good effort and matched Madrid for possession of the ball. That was until Sergio Ramos bungled a shot in off his knee from a Kroos corner. It was probably a bit harsh on Rayo to be two goals down and the fates must have known because inexplicably James Rodríguez gave Leo Baptistao the ball on a back pass which he squared for Alberto Bueno to tap-in whilst Pepe tackled Keylor Navas. Yes, you read that right. In the second half Madrid went up a gear which was more than Rayo could handle and it led to Kroos' first goal for Real Madrid, passed into the bottom corner from about 25 yards out. Benzema then got on the end of a second Ronaldo assist to tap in, although in an offside position. Ronaldo then scored a weak shot due to Cristian Álvarez's error. It was ultimately another blowout victory for Los Blancos.

Newly promoted minnows Eibar arrived in November having taken La Liga by surprise with their good performances. There was nothing surprising about the final result here though. Ancelotti's team romped to a 4-0 win courtesy of a James Rodríguez opener, a Cristiano Ronaldo goal which was assisted brilliantly by Dani Carvajal, a Karim Benzema strike and another Ronaldo conversion from the penalty spot. It was a devastatingly efficient performance by Los Blancos and whilst Eibar didn't play badly, Madrid were simply too much for them to handle. Isco and James particularly shone in helping Toni Kroos eradicate any potential battle in midfield.

Shortly afterwards, this Real Madrid squad found themselves travelling to Switzerland to face Basel. They managed to secure first place in the group with a match to spare as they defeated the Swiss team by a single goal. It came courtesy of a superb Karim Benzema assist after he had jinked past multiple Basel defenders to set up Cristiano Ronaldo for the simple finish. In terms of the goal, it was classic Real Madrid. In terms of the performance, not so much. In fact, Basel came very close to disrupting the winning streak as they produced a lot of problems with their high pressing in midfield and Real's play-makers found it difficult to keep on top of the pace of the game in midfield. In the end, the defence and midfield held their own though and came out with the W.

Málaga were the last team to play Real Madrid in the month of November and they were the ones who probably can claim to have caused Madrid the most trouble during this winning run and it was clear that Luka Modrić was being missed due to the tough time Real had of it. Málaga conceded possession to Los Blancos and looked to hit on the counter. This tactic was quickly dismantled as Cristiano Ronaldo did fantastically to skip past a couple of challenges before delivering the ball into a dangerous area for Karim Benzema who gave Madrid the one goal advantage. Then Iker Casillas made a ridiculous error from a long range shot which nearly cost his team. A period of frustration set in for Madrid who kept creating opportunities but failed to take them with Málaga's Carlos Kameni the star of the show at the forefront of their defence. Annoyingly, the referee also missed three strong penalty calls for Madrid. 10 minutes from time as Real began to tire, Bale stepped up and finished a one on one against Kameni after Ronaldo's assist. Just as well because Roque Santa Cruz scored a stoppage time consolation goal.

Overall, November was a far more difficult month for Real Madrid as they sometimes made hard work of matches and Luka Modrić also picked up a lengthy injury. Fortunately, like any good team they overcame the problems posed to them and won all their matches. 8/10

December: 6 Wins

The festive month of December arrived and there was much to cheer about in Real Madrid's first match as Jesé Rodríguez scored in his long-awaited return after 9 months out of the game due to an ACL injury he picked up in March. It was the second leg of the Copa del Rey clash against Cornellà and it was a match that posed no contest to Madrid's rotation team. Although they did have an early penalty chance early on which they duly missed. Isco and James Rodríguez both played marvellously and they both scored; 1 for Isco, 2 for James. Chicharito believed he had added another when his shot crashed into the underside of the crossbar and in but it turned out it actually went in comically off a hapless Cornellà defender who was by the goal line. Jesé completed the rout to the delight of the Santiago Bernabéu faithful.

Celta Vigo at home followed for Madrid. In what was a difficult match, Los Blancos ended up taking the lead through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty that really should not have been given. Regardless, the big man stepped and slotted it into the bottom corner to give the capital club the lead. Celta's pressing stopped Madrid from building too many long possessions but in the second half Illarramendi came in and changed the game with a good all round performance. Toni Kroos and Ronaldo combined well until the ball fell fortuitously for Ronaldo who made no mistake and took full advantage by volleying past Sergio Álvarez. Unsurprisingly Ronaldo completed his hat-trick after good work on the left hand side by Gareth Bale and Marcelo saw the latter's cross find the Portugese at the back post who struck with unerring accuracy. Celta played well and it wasn't vintage Real but the men in white won yet again thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.

After three consecutive away games this was now the third consecutive home game for Madrid as they once again faced Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad in their last Champions League group stage game. Marcelinho gifted Madrid the opening goal as he was sent off for preventing Raphael Varane's header going in the goal with a tactical handball. Ronaldo converted the resulting penalty. Following that it was simply a game of predicting how many Madrid would score. Gareth Bale crashed in a header off the crossbar from a Toni Kroos corner before surprising goals arrived from the two Álvaro's - Arbeloa and Medrán - who took their turns to be goalscorer for a night. In the end it was a fairly simple and easy victory for the Spanish giants.

An unexpectedly difficult away trip to Almería was on the cards for Real Madrid as they were back on the road. Almería had caused Barcleona problems earlier on in the season and they were at it again here. Isco opened the scoring with a curling effort after a magnificent first touch and some clever footwork. Almería didn't allow their heads to drop though and profited when Verza was left in far too much space outside the box to unleash a golazo on the half volley. However, the combination of Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale struck again as they had done in the previous match as the former whipped in a cross for Bale to stick his noggin upon. Then, a harsh penalty call was given against Marcelo but when Verza went to score his brace, Iker Casillas came up big to stop him. From there Madrid regained confidence and battled hard, culminating in both Benzema and Carvajal serving up assists for Crisitano Ronaldo who thus managed to score twice despite a relatively poor outing by his standards. This made it 20 consecutive wins for Los Blancos who closed out the first half of La Liga in 1st place - 4 points ahead of their closest rivals.

The penultimate game of December came in the form of the Club World Cup semi-finals against Cruz Azul in Marrakesh. The Mexicans came into this game being heavy underdogs but managed to make a good fist of it in the first half. Sergio Ramos continued his tendency of scoring clutch goals with a powerful header after quarter of an hour before Carvajal assisted Benzema with a burst of acceleration through the Cruz Azul defence. However, Cruz Azul hadn't played too badly and were rewarded for their efforts when Ramos gave away a soft penalty 5 minutes before the break. Iker Casillas continued his recent heroics by saving a 2nd consecutive penalty in as many games and from there Cristiano Ronaldo killed the match off with two assists. First, to Bale who scored his third headed goal in as many matches and then to Isco who hit a peach into the bottom corner. It was a satisfying victory for the team who headed into the final full of confidence.

The final competitive fixture of 2014 was an opportunity for Real Madrid to win their fourth trophy of the year. They did. The opponents, Argentinian side San Lorenzo must have spoken to countryman Diego Simeone prior to the match because they came into the game with a thuggish mentality and attempted to break up the play via means of fouls and rough play. Madrid did well not to allow themselves be bullied out of the game and once again, it was the man for all occasions, Sergio Ramos who opened the scoring with a 50 yard volleyed golazo! Please accept my apologies that was a lie. In reality Ramos scored with his head assisted once more by Toni Kroos from the corner kick. Who'd have thunk it? Isco found Gareth Bale in space in the opposition's box and Bale quickly scored the second and last goal of the game by squeezing an attempt under San Lorenzo keeper Torrico who really should have made a better effort. It was Bale's fourth consecutive game with a goal. It wasn't pretty but it served Madrid to land a new piece of silverware they'd previously failed to capture. Top stuff from Los Blancos who extended the winning to 22 games and finished the year on a high.

December was another good month of football from Real Madrid who served to show the world that their form was sustainable and that it will take a good team to end their competitive winning streak. It consisted of six solid performances and another piece of silverware for the trophy cabinet back in Spain. 9/10

So by the looks of things, the season has gone swimmingly so far for the World Champions but if we look past the team, how has each individual fared so far this season?

Iker Casillas - 6/10

The Real Madrid captain started off the season in poor form following a disastrous World Cup campaign. He was conceding too many goals from set pieces and was unable to dominate the aerial battles in his penalty area. In the past couple of months he has slowly but steadily improved, making some great saves along the way. Recently he saved two penalties in successive matches which were both at important times of the game. These crucial stops certainly seem to have restored much of his previous confidence but every so often another silly error will creep into his game and set fresh doubts, such is the life of a footballer. There's no doubt to me that progress has been made though so let's be grateful for that.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 0.53 Clean Sheets

- 0.77 Goals Conceded

- 3.22 Saves per Goal Conceded

- 71.82% Distribution Accuracy

- 0.53 Punches

- 2.35 Catches

Keylor Navas - 5/10

It's been a difficult and transitional season for the Costa Rican shot stopper who may not have expected to still be playing second fiddle to Iker Casillas so far into the season. Unfortunately and frustratingly for him, he hasn't been afforded many opportunities to stake his claim for a starting spot as his appearances in a white shirt have been few and far between. When he has been called upon he's had a mixed bag of results but it's more positive than negative. At the moment, Casillas seems to be in good form so it's going to be really tough for Navas to push his way through to a starting place but one hopes that Carlo Ancelotti will give him more chances as the fixture list grows heavier in the second half of this season.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 0.5 Clean Sheets

- 0.5 Goals Conceded

- 4.5 Saves per Goal Conceded

- 69.5% Distribution Accuracy

- 0 Punches

- 1.25 Catches

Sergio Ramos - 9/10

It's been a good season for Ramos so far. He's scored some important goals, chiefly in the Club World Cup, and is contributing to the team's success with some solid performances at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. Sometimes he is too eager to challenge for the ball when he should instead keep his position to avoid pockets of space opening up behind him. Another problem Sergio has is that he occasionally becomes too involved in the physical aspect of defending and picks up silly or soft bookings but generally he's played really well and has been the man for the big games this season. For instance, Ramos marshalled the Madrid defence to a resounding Clásico victory as they shut-out Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 56.59 Completed Passes / 89.47% Pass Success

- 0.19 Chances Created / 0 Assists

- 1.13 Shots / 41.38% Shot Accuracy / 0.12 Goals

- 0.31 Successful Take-Ons / 71.43% Take-On Success

- 3.01 Aerial Duels Won / 67.25% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.82 Tackles Won / 3.52 Interceptions

- 0.75 Blocks / 4.58 Clearances

Pepe - 8/10

The Portugese centre back came into the season with his starting place in jeopardy from the talent that is Raphael Varane. However Ancelotti put his confidence in Pepe and decided to keep him in the team and the 31 year old veteran has repaid his faith with some extremely tidy and professional displays. He has a much improved disciplinary record which is impressive considering the number of good defensive performances he's accumulated this season. Despite getting older, Pepe hasn't lost his pace which is good for this Real Madrid squad as he needs it to cover the space that Dani Carvajal leaves when pushing forward to join the attack, much in the same way Ramos does for Marcelo.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 38.07 Completed Passes / 86.71 Pass Success

- 0.43 Chances Created / 0.22 Assists

- 0.57 Shots / 28.57% Shot Accuracy / 0.07 Goals

- 0.07 Successful Take-Ons / 100% Take-On Success

- 2.28 Aerial Duels Won / 53.76% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.36 Tackles Won / 1.93 Interceptions

- 0.71 Blocks / 4.65 Clearances

Raphael Varane - 7/10

The young Frenchman was expected to push on and replace Pepe in the first team's starting line-up this season after his development was hampered by last season's lengthy injury. Unfortunately for him, that hasn't come to pass. It's tough to tell exactly what it is that's holding him back other than a magnificent Pepe of course. Varane certainly hasn't played badly, in fact he's offered many assured, composed performances in the heart of defence. There have been some questions asked of his positioning and the timing of some of his jumps for headers as he has been caught out a few times from crossed balls. Whilst there is still improvement to be made, Varane has been playing to a decent standard and is clearly the future of this Real Madrid defence.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 41.34 Completed Passes / 90.5% Pass Success

- 0.1 Chances Created / 0 Assists

- 0.29 Shots / 0% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 0.19 Successful Take-Ons / 66.67% Take-On Success

- 2.16 Aerial Duels Won / 64.65% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.37 Tackles Won / 2.33 Interceptions

- 0.39 Blocks / 5.89 Clearances

Nacho Fernández - 7/10

He's been an able back-up for a couple of seasons now but it may be that this is the breakout year in Madrid for the uncompromising, versatile defender. Whenever Nacho has been called upon he's been nothing short of solid at the back and has filled in at left-back, right-back and his preferred position of centre-back. Going forwards he's nothing special and it's an area that he should look to improve on. Defensively however, there are no problems and if Nacho can continue to produce these understated but correct performances he will continue to be rewarded for his good work with more minutes on the pitch.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 37.14 Completed Passes / 93% Pass Success

- 0.22 Chances Created / 0 Assists

- 0.22 Shots / 0% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 0.22 Successful Take-Ons / 50% Take-On Success

- 1.31 Aerial Duels Won / 78.57% Aerial Duel Success

- 2.4 Tackles Won / 2.19 Interceptions

- 0.89 Blocks / 4.15 Clearances

Dani Carvajal - 8/10

Carvajal has had an encouraging first half of the season as he's showing no signs of slowing down from last season when he established himself as one of the premier right-backs in the world. Going forward he's contributing to the success by providing assists and creating space for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, utilising his bursts of pace down the right side to good effect. Defensively Carvajal makes himself very difficult to beat and rarely do wingers manage to dribble past him. One aspect of his play that has raised concerns is his recent tendency to get almost too fired up for the matches. For example, it's been noted that even in friendlies Carvajal is still committing with full aggression to all of his challenges. This could be a good thing of course and simply show that he's very passionate but he must be careful sometimes in the way he shows that passion. Anyway, so far so good this season for the little Spanish warrior.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 38.81 Completed Passes / 87% Pass Completion

- 1.68 Chances Created / 0.2 Assists

- 0.2 Shots / 0% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 1.19 Successful Take-Ons / 54.55% Take-On Success

- 0.79 Aerial Duels Won / 44.44% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.39 Tackles Won / 2.28 Interceptions

- 0.5 Blocks / 2.18 Clearances

Álvaro Arbeloa - 4/10

The Spartan as he is affectionately known has been a loyal stalwart of this Real Madrid defence for a number of years now but by now it is patently apparent that his physical abilities are waning and thus he's becoming less competent. Opposing players now get past him far more easily than they used to due to a lack of pace. The problem for Arbeloa is that in comparison to Carvajal he offers very little to support the attack too. All this said, Arbeloa is still capable of putting in some decent performances here and there. Stopping Raheem Sterling from having any effect across two separate matches was quite impressive considering the aforementioned issues so it's not all bad news for the experienced full-back.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 40.43 Completed Passes / 89.6% Pass Success

- 0.77 Chances Created / 0.11 Assists

- 0.52 Shots / 66.5% Shot Accuracy / 0.1 Goals

- 0.31 Successful Take-Ons / 36.66% Take-On Success

- 1.61 Aerial Duels Won / 63.57% Aerial Duel Success

- 2.44 Tackles Won / 1.71 Interceptions

- 0.32 Blocks / 2.14 Clearances

Marcelo - 8/10

Brazilian pocket-rocket Marcelo has had a much improved first half of the season compared to recent campaigns. He's making more of a difference in attack and his numbers are reaching similar highs from circa 2010-2012. The impact he's providing offensively allows Madrid to really hold down that left hand side of the pitch and it provides Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco Alarcón more space with which to play with as opposing defenders can't double up on them when there's the threat of an overlapping Marcelo run. Defensively we've seen improvements too- particularly in his positioning - but not to the extent where one would still feel comfortable against world-class opposition. I still feel that Marcelo is a weak point for opponents to target for set-pieces. He can also be lazy when tracking back to help out his defence and it's one of the more frustrating aspects of the left-back's game. Like everything else, I'm sure this can also be improved however, and it's true that Marcelo is a different player from that of last season.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 46.78 Completed Passes / 83.21% Pass Success

- 1.56 Chances Created / 0.33 Assists

- 0.72 Shots / 40.57% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 1.5 Successful Take-Ons / 61.76% Take-On Success

- 0.22 Aerial Duels Won / 28.79% Aerial Duel Success

- 2 Tackles Won / 1.61 Interceptions

- 0.17 Blocks / 2.34 Clearances

Fábio Coentrão - 5/10

It's been quite a tough season thus far for Coentrão who has had to overcome injury and has found the first-team place he'd carved out for himself at the end of last season taken by a new and improved Marcelo. Last season, Fábio was excellent and put in some epic performances but he's been allowed little time in order to sell himself to Ancelotti. When he has played this season, he's been solid if unspectacular. It's true that he could still improve his offensive contribution but defensively he hardly puts a foot wrong. In fact, regardless of the fact that Marcelo is starting more games, I think Coentrão has all the capabilities necessary to help Los Blancos win trophies if he's called upon. He'll be hoping for more opportunities in the second half of this season.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 34 Completed Passes / 89.24% Pass Success

- 1 Chances Created / 0 Assists

- 0.33 Shots / 100% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 1.33 Successful Take-Ons / 34.85% Take-On Success

- 1.67 Aerial Duels Won / 70.1% Aerial Duel Success

- 2.33 Tackles Won / 2.33 Interceptions

- 0.67 Blocks / 4 Clearances

Asier Illarramendi - 7/10

Illarramendi has played very well so far this season and executed his role to good effect. He's directly affected the outcome of some matches when Ancelotti has introduced him in the second half of many La Liga games to help secure the victory. Some feel as though he should contribute more on offence without realising that that's not in his job description. Even still, if Illarra were to improve in that respect it would be good for the team so I understand those fans frustrations. Another improvement he could make is to win more aerial duels in the middle of the pitch - an area he is poor in. Admittedly, for each handful of good performances Illarra will invariably provide one bad performance but that happens with all players so it's nothing special. His passing has been efficient and his reading of the game defensively is probably superior to any other midfielder we currently possess so it's imperative that we have a player of his mould to use for when we need just that.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 69.91 Completed Passes / 93.45% Pass Success

- 1.15 Chances Created / 0 Assists

- 0.14 Shots / 0% Shot Accuracy / 0 Goals

- 0.29 Successful Take-Ons / 81.82% Take-On Success

- 0.43 Aerial Duels Won / 15.91% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.86 Tackles Won / 2.74 Interceptions

- 0.43 Blocks / 2.15 Clearances

Toni Kroos - 9/10

Like Mesut Özil before him, fellow German Toni Kroos has struggled to find his shooting boots whilst providing assists galore for his fellow team mates. However, goalscoring is one of the only criticisms that could be pointed towards Kroos because he's been more or less immaculate in every other department of his game. Whilst it is true that Kroos doesn't read the game quite like Asier Illarramendi does, he performs every other task to a higher standard and really is the technician at the heart of Real Madrid's midfield. He has taken on the Xabi Alonso role finely and has arguably made it his own. Without him I don't think Madrid would have had the start to the season that they've had, especially when one considers that Luka Modrić is out of action with his injury. Kroos is the glue that holds the team together and when he's not playing, Madrid have a lesser chance of winning in my estimation. It's as simple as that really.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 71.67 Completed Passes / 93.49% Pass Success

- 2.38 Chances Created / 0.47 Assists

- 1.14 Shots / 33% Shot Accuracy / 0.05 Goals

- 0.47 Successful Take-Ons / 65.07% Take-On Success

- 0.36 Aerial Duels Won / 59.41% Aerial Duel Success

- 2.07 Tackles Won / 0.83 Interceptions

- 0.11 Blocks / 0.57 Clearances

Luka Modrić - 7/10

The Croat started off the season in indifferent form. World-class performances were juxtaposed with tepid displays. This was quite surprising considering that in the previous season Modrić had surely asserted himself as one of the best central midfielder's in the world. However, he soon returned to his very best and was playing some quality football, helping to set up the current winning streak with dominant performances. His passing, close control and dribbling technique makes him so important to Real Madrid as he combines with Toni Kroos to create a wonderfully skilled midfield tandem. This allows Madrid to control more possession and dictate the pace of the game. It also helps Madrid create attacking team moves and especially helps counter-attacks. Unfortunately for Modrić he suffered an injury halfway through November that has had him out of action since. Still, he's an integral part of the Madrid midfield and even with the current success his absent has been felt, reflected in the performances of the team since his withdrawal.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 65.07 Completed Passes / 90.28% Pass Success

- 1.24 Chances Created / 0.24 Assists

- 1.09 Shots / 54.76% Shot Accuracy / 0.08 Goals

- 2.02 Successful Take-Ons / 79.27% Take-On Success

- 0.7 Aerial Duels Won / 70% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.24 Tackles Won / 1.48 Interceptions

- 0.39 Blocks / 0.31 Clearances

Isco Alarcón - 9/10

Young talent Isco has shown us how much he has developed his game since arriving at Madrid the summer before last. He is now showing a different level of maturity in his play that was missing before as he has adapted to playing new positions and thus serve multiple roles for this Real Madrid squad. It's been quite a revelation to behold and he's now adding defensive solidity to the midfield which wasn't there before by tracking runners, closing down the angles for passing lanes when pressing and putting in strong tackles. He's really shown a large hunger to force his way into the starting line-up and it's highlighted by his good numbers across the board. Offensively he's still creating more assists than ever before and is only scoring less due to his deeper average position on the pitch. Of the goals he has scored, the majority have been real crackers. It's really encouraging to see this when there are some who say that young players don't develop properly at a star-studded club like Real Madrid.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 65.86 Completed Passes / 89% Pass Success

- 2.18 Chances Created / 0.36 Assists

- 1.46 Shots / 50% Shot Accuracy / 0.14 Goals

- 3.71 Successful Take-Ons / 61.69% Take-On Success

- 0.44 Aerial Duels Won / 54.97% Aerial Duel Success

- 2.32 Tackles Won / 0.87 Interceptions

- 0.15 Blocks / 0.43 Clearances

James Rodríguez - 8/10

The World Cup wonder has impressed since arriving at Real Madrid and no wonder. He's making assists, scoring goals and really gelling with the rest of the team. I think when he was first signed that many didn't expect him to possess the work ethic that he has. Many believed that he was a new, flashy, shiny Florentino Pérez toy. In reality James has contributed to the success Los Blancos have had thus far this season. Along with Isco, he's another example of how young players can find themselves in the first team as long as they have the necessary quality. Some credit must also go to Carlo Ancelotti, as the Italian manager has helped the Colombian kid improve the defensive side of his game. I feel as though there's now only one weakness that James could improve upon and that's his ability to dribble past his marker. He's a little bit slow for an attacking play-maker so that doesn't help his ability to get past a man but other than that Rodríguez has all the necessary qualities. His natural skill is another component which allows Madrid to keep the ball better and to be able to be dangerous from all areas.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 50.8 Completed Passes / 87.23% Pass Success

- 2.49 Chances Created / 0.37 Assists

- 2.25 Shots / 56.13% Shot Accuracy / 0.37 Goals

- 0.85 Successful Take-Ons / 43.41% Take-On Success

- 0.37 Aerial Duels Won / 55.2% Aerial Duel Success

- 1.52 Tackles Won / 1.28 Interceptions

- 0.06 Blocks / 0.18 Clearances

Gareth Bale - 7/10

Bale has had a mixed start to this season as he combines lethargic, disinterested performances with cut-throat efficiency in others. It is a little odd to see to be honest. Last season Bale had the excuse of not having had a pre-season to work with but this season he did have one yet his individual numbers haven't improved. I think he's starting to gain some form now, having scored in each of his last four appearances for Los Blancos. So the positives are certainly there, especially when you consider that like Ramos, Bale is a clutch player who can pull a rabbit out of the hat at any given moment. He should be trying to get himself more involved in the matches as he often finishes them with less touches of the ball than any other Madrid player. However, his ability to run past defenders is still incredible whilst he's improved his aerial ability. Another facet of his game I really like is that when Madrid play the 4-4-2 formation rather than the 4-3-3 he increases his defensive contribution and helps Dani Carvajal out. This emphasises that he's willing to adapt and help the team when needed and that's a great trait to possess.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 24.45 Completed Passes / 79.27% Pass Success

- 1.08 Chances Created / 0.25 Assists

- 3.93 Shots / 60.34 Shot Accuracy / 0.57 Goals

- 2.41 Successful Take-Ons / 60.98% Take-On Success

- 0.89 Aerial Duels Won / 42.92% Aerial Duel Success

- 0.38 Tackles Won / 0.26 Interceptions

- 0.26 Blocks / 0.7 Clearances

Cristiano Ronaldo - 10/10

Recent Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has been nothing short of phenomenal for Madrid so far this season. He's remained as consistent as ever but is now even improving and building upon the amazing goal and assist tally he racked up last season. His record breaking start to the season has cemented him as being the clear favourite to win the next Ballon d'Or and his performances justify it. The thing about Ronaldo is that even on the rare occasion that he doesn't score, he still creates space for his team mates simply due to the fact that opposing teams often double or triple mark him. So feared is he that such drastic measures are taken to prevent him from affecting the game. And yet he still evades them. The positions he takes up are brilliant and his runs into space always cause trouble. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and that's a major part of why he scores so many goals. Ronaldo boasts a better shot accuracy and conversion rate than Lionel Messi this season up at 73.5% and 27%, with Messi's at 61.5% and 25% respectively. I've also never seen him with so many assists at this stage of the season and in fact, he's completing more key passes per game than any other player in La Liga. But let's not let facts get in the way of prejudice. Ronaldo is an arrogant, prima donna and a selfish player who only cares about himself!

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 31.31 Completed Passes / 81.3% Pass Success

- 2.23 Chances Created / 0.46 Assists

- 6.71 Shots / 73.52% Shot Accuracy / 1.52 Goals

- 1.88 Successful Take-Ons / 51.23 Take-On Success

- 1.48 Aerial Duels Won / 52.6% Aerial Duel Success

- 0.05 Tackles Won / 0.05 Interceptions

- 0.05 Blocks / 0.81 Clearances

Karim Benzema - 8/10

Big Benz is having his best season since the Liga winning season of 2011-12 and it's bearing fruit out on the pitch. He's scoring at a good rate but also assisting Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo well and his movement on and off the ball is a joy to behold. Benzema is not just scoring but he's scoring important goals too. For instance, he's scored the winning goals against Liverpool and Ludogorets in the Champions League (where he always seems to do well) group stage. There have been a couple of mediocre performances dotted about here and there but I find it hard to recall a single game where Benzema was terrible and generally when Benzema plays poorly invariably so do Real Madrid. The Frenchman is lighting it up as part of the vaunted BBC and his link-up play with the other two is about as good as a fan could hope for. One criticism that could be made is that he could be a little more involved in some games but he is generally a hard worker and always tries to make himself available.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 26.57 Completed Passes / 81.76% Pass Success

- 2.35 Chances Created / 0.52 Assists

- 2.6 Shots / 56.66% Shot Accuracy / 0.85 Goals

- 1.1 Successful Take-Ons / 57.04% Take-On Success

- 0.72 Aerial Duels Won / 38.79% Aerial Duel Success

- 0.58 Tackles Won / 0.13 Interceptions

- 0.07 Blocks / 0.58 Clearances

Javier Hernández - 5/10

Chicharito arrived quite unexpectedly early on in September to the club for more minutes than he was getting at Manchester United and ironically it turns out that he's getting just as few opportunities here. The Mexican is undoubtedly a good quality player for a back-up striker and many Madridista's are glad he's here. The problem for him is summarised in three words: Karim Benzema's form. When Benzema is playing at such a high level it would be hard for any striker in world football to get into this Real Madrid starting line-up on a consistent basis. When Hernández has played he's generally done decently. His debut was fantastic as he crashed in two long range stunners in under a quarter of an hour. Other than that his numbers aren't bad and his scoring rate is decent compared to the minutes he's played. However when he does play he needs to be more involved in the build-up play than he has been. I think it will be hard for him to push for a starting berth but he's a valuable instrument to have ready on the bench if the team is struggling for a goal.

The Statistics (per 90 minutes played across both La Liga and the UCL):

- 15.62 Completed Passes / 81.44 Pass Success

- 0.79 Chances Created / 0.26 Assists

- 3.71 Shots / 58.46% Shot Accuracy / 0.8 Goals

- 0.25 Successful Take-Ons / 100% Take-On Success

- 0.79 Aerial Duels Won / 34.63% Aerial Duel Success

- 0.53 Tackles Won / 0.26 Interceptions

- 0 Blocks / 0.26 Clearances

Sami Khedira, Jesé Rodríguez, Álvaro Medrán and other first-team players have not played enough minutes in order to fairly assess their seasonal performance so far.

Areas to Improve Upon?

Despite the unprecedented success, there are still a couple of areas Real Madrid could improve on in order to make themselves nearly impossible to defeat.

One improvement that can be made is negating the opposition from creating so many chances and taking so many attempts on the Madrid goal. In La Liga teams are taking 11.9 shots on our goal per game on average and for a top club that's not good enough. If we compare this to Bayern Munich (6.2), Barcelona (7.4) and Atlético Madrid (7.5), the disparity is clear. There may be games coming up later in the season where Madrid come up against such opponents that make it very difficult for them to create chances let alone score, therefore if Madrid are not scoring as many goals as they would like, it would be imperative to ensure that they're not allowing their opponents any opportunities also. It's likely that this is due simply to the system that Los Blancos are currently playing, often without a true defensive midfielder, but something should be remedied tactically in order to ensure that Real Madrid can prevent other teams from having so many efforts on their goal. As we've seen many times before, the "you score 3, we'll score 4" mentality isn't always correct and that sort of arrogant thinking has led to the downfall of many a team.

Another improvement which could be integrated is being caught offside less often. One may think I'm nitpicking here but many times this season I have seen players make good runs in behind the opponents defence only for their team mate not to pick out the pass and take the safe option or to mistime the pass. Similarly, the player running into space will often mistime his run, either going too early or too late. In fact, Real Madrid are the club who are caught offside most often across Europe's top 5 leagues at an average of 4 times per game. In fairness, it may be a stylistic problem in that it could be the result of attempting more through balls or balls over the top of the defence than most teams. However, there are teams such as Bayern, Barcelona, PSG & Roma who average far more possession than Real Madrid and they do not get caught offside nearly as often. This is a small issue for sure but if it can be rectified it will help the team to be even more clinical than they currently are. Especially when you consider that Real Madrid are so vaunted for their counter-attacking, in the big Champions League games it might be the difference between winning the game or losing it.

Notwithstanding the aerial powers that be Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, I believe this Real Madrid should really be better in the air in regards to defending particularly. It always seems to me a great mystery how a team with Ramos, Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, Pepe, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema win so little headers. It has oft been a topic of complaint across the years at Madrid and even now it still holds true that Madrid are poor at defending set pieces. In spite of this it is still true that over 50% of the goals that Los Blancos have conceded this season are either headed goals or goals that occur from an opponent's set-piece. Actually, Real Madrid only win 12.9 aerial duels per game on average in La Liga. That's the 7th worst figure across Europe's top 5 leagues. Barcelona unsurprisingly are the only Spanish team to boast have a worse amount. If Real Madrid do not improve in this aspect of their game they could suffer the consequences as they already have done in the past against teams such as Atlético Madrid. It remains an enigma as to why this hasn't been rectified in training. Whilst I've seen an improvement since the season began in this regard, it's still not enough to inspire confidence.

For informational purposes, here's an up to date view of the player-minutes table. All figures take into account every competition competed in.

Name Minutes Played Goals Scored Assists Made Goals Scored or Created per Minutes Played
Toni Kroos 2145 1 11 Every 178.75 minutes
Cristiano Ronaldo 2131 32 12 Every 48.43 minutes
Iker Casillas 1980 0 0 N/A
Karim Benzema 1908 14 10 Every 79.5 minutes
Gareth Bale 1872 11 5 Every 117 minutes
Marcelo 1871 1 6 Every 267.29 minutes
Sergio Ramos 1856 4 0 Every 464 minutes
James Rodríguez 1855 9 8 Every 109.12 minutes
Pepe 1620 1 3 Every 405 minutes
Isco 1614 4 9 Every 124.15 minutes
Dani Carvajal 1432 0 3 Every 477.33 minutes
Luka Modric 1413 1 3 Every 353.25 minutes
Raphael Varane 1173 2 0 Every 586.5 minutes
Álvaro Arbeloa 1039 1 1 Every 519.5 minutes
Asier Illarramendi 902 0 0 N/A
Nacho 592 0 0 N/A
Fábio Coentrão 555 0 0 N/A
Javier Hernández 517 4 2 Every 86.17 minutes
Keylor Navas 450 0 0 N/A
Sami Khedira 234 0 0 N/A
*Xabi Alonso 180 0 0 N/A
Álvaro Medrán 132 1 0 Every 132 minutes
Fernando Pacheco 90 0 0 N/A
Jesé Rodríguez 80 1 1 Every 40 minutes
Diego Llorente 45 0 0 N/A
Javier Muñoz 28 0 0 N/A
Raúl de Tomás 14 0 0 N/A
*Ángel Di María 12 0 0 N/A
Own Goal In Favour of Real Madrid - 2 0 Every 1260 minutes

*No longer with the squad.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Managing Madrid Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Real Madrid news from Managing Madrid