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Real Madrid Poised For Poker in 2020

Real Madrid v Athletic Club Bilbao - Liga Photo by Pressinphoto/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Madridistas, the recent golden era is officially over. Exactly 1,099 days after Real Madrid lifted their second FIFA Club World Cup title in Yokohama, Japan, the home jersey used against Athletic Bilbao this past Sunday in the final game of 2019 did not have the embroidered gold crest titled “FIFA World Champions”. Although Liverpool was crowned the new world champions last Saturday, this closure to our previous dynasty is fueling the team’s hunger and jumpstarting the pursuit to create the next on Avenida Concha Espina.

Four months into this season, it is clear Real Madrid has the right mix of ingredients with a Master Chef at the stove. The major reasons for last season’s demise were the early burnout by veteran players and the triple turnover of managers. There can be no success without stability at the managerial level and consistency of high-level play, especially in early spring. Fast forward to this month, young bucks, such as left back Ferland Mendy, center back Eder Militão, midfielder Federico Valverde, and right forward Rodrygo Goes, have stepped up to provide substantial support to veterans Marcelo, Raphael Varane, and Gareth Bale. The biggest revelations are Valverde, who leapfrogged 2018 FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modriċ as the third most important midfielder with 869 minutes played, and Mendy for already logging 173 more minutes than Marcelo’s anemic 540. Under the clockwork direction of Zinédine Zidane, these rotations are taking root and strengthening those critical areas of the field.

On domestic and European ground, Real Madrid is showing the most creative offensive juices and fortified wall in front of the net. Despite only scoring one goal in the last three straight Liga ties (at Valencia, at Barcelona, vs Athletic), the team recorded 47 goals in 24 games so far. This microcosm is a far cry from last season’s famine when sideline changes prevented a broader offensive poetry. On the back end, Thibaut Courtois is polishing the dust off the 2018 FIFA World Cup Golden Glove Award with 0.8 goals conceded per game and current total of 10 clean sheets. All in all, the team has only suffered two defeats, which were on the road at Mallorca (Liga) and Paris St-Germain (Champions League).

As Madridistas around the world gather to celebrate the upcoming holiday season, there is much promise tied to expectation this time around. Once 2020 starts, the renovated Spanish Supercup in Saudi Arabia will provide the first official title opportunity. After that desert venture, the conventional pursuit for Copa del Rey, La Liga, and Champions League titles will kick into hyperdrive. When history can be made, Real Madrid shoots for the stars. With this in mind, how about a poker of titles to add to the Club’s magnificent collection? The gold standard is ours to set again. Domestic title holders Barcelona and world champions Liverpool shall be placed on notice. The Kings of Europe are prepared to reclaim the mantle.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Hala Madrid y nada más!

Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)

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