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Reasons why Luka Modric will improve Real Madrid's form

Carlo Ancelotti has called for an increase in intensity to his side's play and he'll get that in abundance when one man returns in the coming weeks.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

"The problem was intensity and attitude." Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti was clear in his thoughts after seeing his side fall to defeat against Atletico Madrid. Only this wasn't last weekend's 4-0 humiliation at the Vicente Calderon, the assessment followed the 2-1 home defeat that sparked a similar crisis five months ago. Some things never change.

"After what happened at the end of last year, our intensity, concentration and attitude dropped a little," came the Italian's words as he sat defeated again by Diego Simeone and his Atleti side last Saturday. "I don't know if this is normal or not, but this is what happened." He added: "We have time to recover, we're still top of the table and I'm confident that we will be able to react [against Deportivo this weekend] and repeat what happened last season."

"Intensity" has been somewhat of a buzzword for Ancelotti this season. He called for it after that home defeat against Los Colchoneros in September, he called for it before the Champions League home tie against Ludogorets in December and he called for it ahead of his side's ultimately unsuccessful Copa del Rey tie against Atleti last month. The warning has not been heeded.

Madrid were at their most intense in October and those are the levels Ancelotti is striving for again. Between the home match against Athletic Bilbao at the start of October and the visit of Rayo Vallecano to the Santiago Bernabeu at the start of November Madrid won all eight of their matches across three different competitions. The European champions scored 30 goals and conceded just three in the process. Madrid were a winning machine.

Within that eight-game run they cruised past Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, winning at the Premier League club's famous ground for the first time in their history, ended Barcelona's winning streak and scored the first goals against the Catalans in La Liga with a convincing 3-1 win, and enjoyed big 5-0 wins against Athletic and at Levante.

Madrid won with verve, vigour and a confident swagger that had many insisting the team was even better than the one that lifted the tenth European Cup. All this despite the absence of Angel Di Maria, arguably the most intense player of last season's squad, and Xabi Alonso. Ancelotti, and indeed president Florentino Perez, had rebuilt well. Luis Enrique's men surged to the top of the table in those early weeks but Madrid hit back emphatically and were early favourites for the title.

The difference between then and Madrid ‘s form since returned from the winter break has been staggering. Valencia showed Los Blancos how to play with intensity when they ended their winning streak at Mestalla and Ancelotti's men failed to shine in matches at Getafe and Cordoba, despite taking three points from both matches. The winter break was meant to leave Madrid refreshed and revitalised but they returned without momentum and energy-sapped.

The FIFA Club World Cup, albeit only over two games and not so far away in Morroco, as well as a trip to Dubai for a mid-season friendly with AC Milan did not help. The problems stemmed deeper, however, and it is no surprise that levels dropped after that showboating eight-game winning streak between October and November. There was something missing, there was someone missing.

The 5-1 win against Rayo at the Bernabeu was Luka Modric's last before he was sidelined with a thigh injury suffered playing for Croatia against Italy. A three-month spell on the sidelines was a blow to Madrid but perhaps they did not know how big the miss would be.

The silver lining was that it eased Ancelotti's selection headache and he was able to bring fans' favourite Isco into his starting eleven on a regular basis. While the former Malaga man is undoubtedly one of the stars of Madrid and in La Liga, he is a different player to Modric and does not offer the same qualities as the Croatian. He has arguably been one of Madrid's best players this season but the loss of Modric has unbalanced the team both in balance and intensity.

Madrid eased to a 4-0 win at Eibar following Modric's injury and continued their winning streak for the rest of 2014 before Valencia brought them back down to earth with a bang. The performance levels dipped, however, and eventually resulted in a January that saw them defeated at Valencia and knocked out of the Copa del Rey, as well as limping through wins at Getafe and lowly Cordoba.

Toni Kroos may have fitted into the gap left by Xabi Alonso like a glove as the man who orchestrates his side's move and Isco may have added gloss in attack, but in Modric Madrid miss their engine. To put a take on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's infamous quote, it's no good having a Ferrari if the wrong fuel is being put inside the tank.

Modric was the buzz in the Madrid midfield, the man who joined defence to attack. While midfield partner Kroos added the required calmness, the former Tottenham Hotspur man added the intensity and the verve to Ancelotti's team from back to front. The perfect box-to-box man who was just as crucial to his side's defensive play as he was to the attack. There is nobody else like him in Madrid's current star-studded squad.

He is the kind of player who will continue with the same performance levels be it in El Clasico or be it against Elche away on a cool winter night. He is disciplined, eager and works for the team. He lifts the team, his energy is infectious and that energy has been absent in recent weeks. For Ancelotti's references to lacking intensity, read lacking Modric.

That the 29-year-old is nearing a full recovery from his thigh injury is encouraging news for Madrid at a time when senior players are dropping like flies. Sergio Ramos, Pepe and James Rodriguez are all in the middle of spells in the treatment table and although Madrid's squad is cast upon by envious eyes from around the world, those absences are a big blow.

Modric's rehabilitation has been going well and he says he will be back in around three weeks. If all goes to plan that return could be timely ahead of a trip to Barcelona in just over a month's time and further crucial matches against Villarreal and Athletic in La Liga.

Ancelotti has called for a reaction from his men against Deportivo this weekend but the intensity levels should move up another gear with the return of Madrid's midfield maestro in the coming weeks.

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