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Madrid's creative spark far from snuffed out

A goalless draw at home against Malaga may have suggested otherwise, but Madridistas should not have too many concerns about their side's attacking quality this season.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

When Real Madrid drew a surprising blank against Malaga in La Liga at the weekend, questions were asked. Answers are always sought when Los Blancos drop points at home and even more so when they fail find the back of the net. Saturday against Javi Gracia's side was one of those rare occasions.

After the encouraging 2-1 at San Mames in midweek a home clash against the Andalusians looked a relative stroll in the park on paper. Victory over Athletic Club brought a sign of intent with a place at the top of the table and a repeat of the struggles endured against Granada on home soil the week before were not expected.

They were not expected but they were forthcoming. That place at La Liga's summit lasted only a matter of days and the hounds were out for Rafa Benitez and his side after the Bernabeu stalemate - the team's second goalless draw of the campaign already after the opener at Sporting.

Questions were asked about the strength of the team's attack and the squad depth. In truth, however, Saturday's result looked more like a bad day at the office rather than a genuine concern at a lack of creativity in the Madrid attack.

Malaga's goal may have stayed in tact but chances were not in short supply. Indeed, the hosts carved out 31 attempts on goal but bad fortune, some poor judgement and an in-form goalkeeper kept them out. If anything, the performance of the team looked better than that against Granada, despite the latter resulting in three crucial points.

Cristiano Ronaldo was handed numerous opportunities to equal and even surpass Raul's all-time goalscoring record for the club but he squandered each and every one. On another day, as at Espanyol, he could have scored a hat-trick or more. He misfired and he faced a goalkeeper in Carlos Kameni who was in top form. When he failed, his defenders helped out, hacking one spilled effort off the line.

It was not Madrid's day, pure and simply. The fact it followed a sluggish 1-0 victory over Granada in the previous match, leaving Madrid with just one goal in two home league matches, made things worse. The fact that they lost top spot just days after claiming it didn't make it easy, either.

On top of that, although little may be expected of Malaga this season, they have shown that they can give the top teams a game. Barcelona only managed a 1-0 home win against Gracia's side and Malaga won at the Camp Nou last season. That goal, in a game in which the Catalans had 22 shots - nine less than Madrid at the weekend - was one of just three they have conceded all season so far.

The injuries, of course, have to be mentioned. They are often used as an excuse but lacking the quality of two regular starters in the side's attack in Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez is a blow. The pair showed before they suffered injury how influential they both are with two goals apiece in the 5-0 demolition of Real Betis.

That Sergio Ramos was missing was also crucial. He may not form part of that attack but he leads from the back, pushing the side forward and often starting attacks with his pin-point passing from defence. His threat from set-pieces should also not be understated.

That trio is set to return in the coming days and should provide a big boost to Madrid as a whole, but mainly in attack. Their return will also see one world-class player drop to the bench, probably Isco, and Benitez will be left with a welcome selection headache.

There have been questions about squad depth, especially in attack, and especially after Madrid failed to add a true ‘Galactico' over the summer. Mateo Kovacic played well on his full Liga debut in Bilbao while Lucas Vasquez has shown he can be a useful back-up. There may not be an out-and-out goalscorer to turn to on the bench this season but the attacking options are still numerous.

Indeed, Madrid may have suffered from two goalless draws already this season but they have still showed their potency in attack with 6-0, 5-0 and 4-0 victories. Only on-song Celta Vigo have scored more goals than Madrid this season, with Los Blancos notching three more goals than Barcelona's famed ‘MSN' strike force.

The plus point of the season has, of course, been the defense. Madrid have the best defence in La Liga, with only one goal conceded so far, and that has come with a tinkering of the tactics and formation from the new man at the helm. In turn, changes have progressed in attack and with only six games of the season having been played, those changes may need time to click fully.

The absence of goals at the weekend will worry Madridistas but that absence should be one of the few exceptions rather than the rule. You wouldn't bet against a big money attacking addition next summer given the absence of one this year but Los Blancos have enough artillery in attack this season. With the return of Bale and James on the horizon, they'll soon be set to show it.

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