The Story So Far...
33 League Titles.
12 Champions League titles.
When Zizou first took over the club, there was a lot of doubt, but as things stretched on, you knew that he was the real deal. He’s helped the club achieve two Champions League titles (back to back) a La Liga title and even the Club World Cup. While the latter isn’t as prestigious, it’s still a trophy.
Now it’s time to do it all over again; can Zidane and his men battle on four fronts this season? Will he be the first manager in the modern era to win back to back to back Champions League titles? Could we be witnessing the early stages of a dynasty?
The Glass Dragon
I wonder if someone put a hex on Gareth Bale dooming him to a life in football that goes in spurts, until inevitably he winds up on the shelf. This will be a season of will he? Or won’t he? It’s enough to drive a man mad.
Outside of Toni Kroos, Bale is one of my favorites - so seeing him go down with injury after injury is tough. Keep in mind, that most of what we did last year was without Bale as part of the BBC. So yes, this club could go on without him and I don’t think we’d see too much of a drop in production, especially going by what he did last season. But our club is MUCH better with him out on the wing where he belongs.
He only played 19 matches in 2016/2017 and his last competitive goal came on February 26th, in a 3-2 win over Villarreal. So the ‘bar’ is set at 19 matches, anything over that this season is a bonus. I know I may sound a bit cynical, but it’s a repeating nightmare every season. I just want him to stay healthy. If that means wrapping him in bubble wrap, so be it.
When the BBC is at full strength they’re a force to be reckoned with. Last season across all competitions the BBC combined for 70 goals and 24 assists, and that’s without Bale for most of the season. The key to the BBC playing as a united group depends on Gareth Bale. I like to imagine a world where all three are healthy for the entire season (I know, keep dreaming).
It’s no secret that Cristiano Ronaldo is the one that carried most of the load last season, netting 42 goals in all competitions. Benzema on the other hand, was up and down for most of the season and didn’t miss much time with injury (three matches). To have a successful run in four different competitions means rotation and keeping our front three off the trainer's table.
The War On Four Fronts
This year, Real Madrid will be competing in four different competitions: La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, and the Club World Cup. This means rotation is going to be the key to survival in all four. Zidane was pretty good at rotating the club last season, and we wouldn’t expect anything less this term.
With the new kids (more on them later), there should be plenty of options when the time comes. Zizou’s sub pattern can be a bit maddening at times, but I’m willing to give him a bit of rope in this area. Real Madrid are expected to win all the trophies. Can that happen this season? I don’t see why not.
The New Kids...
Jesús Vallejo, Marcos Llorente, and Borja Mayoral have all returned from their respective loan spells and have been given squad numbers. Real Madrid also brought in Theo Hernández from Atlético Madrid and Dani Ceballos from Real Betis. As it sits right now, they’re all bench depth as I don’t see any of them starting right away.
Mayoral’s loan to Wolfsburg was a waste of time. He only managed to get into a grand total 421 minutes (spread over 21 matches), and he’s now our backup striker unless we buy someone before the window closes. This makes me a bit nervous, though he looked decent during the MLS All-Star game, as he picked up the MVP trophy.
Vallejo and Llorente both had successful loan spells and look to be good choices coming off the bench or getting those occasional starts. Vallejo will most likely be the third choice centre-back. What about Nacho you ask? At this point he’s the Swiss Army knife of the defense - he can be slotted in anywhere across the backline. I hope that Zizou goes for him when it’s time for a back up right-back over say, Lucas Vazquez.
Llorente might have to fight for time with Kovacic, though Marcos is more suited as Casemiro’s understudy. Kovacic will more than likely be fighting for time with Kroos, Modric, and Isco.
They have something to prove and we will get to see if those loan spells helped them develop. Without a doubt they’ll get their chances and I hope they impress. The only one that has me a bit worried is Borja Mayoral, I just don’t think he’s at a level where he should be subbing in for Benzema.