Madridistas, this day was coming. Real Madrid just do not do well after the international break. There was no way the team would remain undefeated in La Liga the entire season. However, the first loss should not have come against a recently ascended rival, as was the case when Real Madrid lost 1-0 to Mallorca in Estadi de Son Moix on Saturday. The loss dropped the team to second and allowed Barcelona to retake the top spot in the league. This movie played in cinemas before, and keeps repeating as if it was a broken record. Who is at fault and how did it happen? There are various culprits who share blame.
Leading off, this road game was tailor-made for an upset before the opening whistle blew. This was the first game after the second international break of the season. Real Madrid lost 12 players to national team duties. Three top starters (Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Gareth Bale) suffered injuries during the break, which dashed their hopes to play at Mallorca. Eden Hazard got the night off in order to witness the birth of his fourth child. Veteran Raphael Varane and newest sensation Federico Valverde were benched after playing two games for France and Uruguay respectively. While Zinedine Zidane had only half the squad for 10 days, Mallorca counted on all but one international starter (Martin Valjent) for an entire two weeks to carefully prepare for this homecoming.
Our starting lineup was cookie cutter to say the least. Placing Luka Jovic next to Karim Benzema may look solid on paper, but a frustrating story was told on the field. Jovic barely touched the ball and made few gestures to associate with anyone or trek back to assist in pressing. Benzema drifted towards the left, which crowded Vinicius Jr and Marcelo right behind. Odriozola was the lone wolf zipping up and down the end line with little support from James. Defensively for Odriozola, it was one of his worst, with a senseless midfield challenge which earned him his first yellow 19 minutes in and a second yellow for an aggressively late diving foul in the 74th minute — leaving the team with 10 men the rest of the way. Isco was a man in search of a zone to influence, but instead reverted back to his old habits of “hero soccer” with over-dribbling and losing possession. In fact, his careless turnover in the seventh minute ignited the counterattack, which ended with the only goal in the game.
Finally, Zinedine Zidane was excessively tardy with substitutions. In theory, when the original plan backfires, adjustments need to be implemented rapidly in order to give the team the best chance to turn the result around. The first double change of Valverde and Rodrygo for Isco and Jovic did not occur until the 66th minute. Brahim Diaz coming in for Vinicius Jr 15 minutes later did not help the cause at all. As the clock ticked away, I thought, ‘Why not Mariano Diaz?’
In the end, this was a disappointing and terrible loss, which cast more doubt inside the fragile Madridista base. Teams similar to Mallorca are creating a comprehensive scouting report on how to paralyze the offense of Real Madrid and punish the defense with well-choreographed counterattacks. If the team wants to win La Liga, dropping points to non-European competition teams cannot happen. That will force Real Madrid to beat the likes of Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, and Atlético. All are tall orders indeed.
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)