There was a time when winning league titles was second nature for Real Madrid. Powered by an all-star line-up, no one in Spain and few in Europe managed to stop the Spanish giants from achieving historic success year after year.
Unfortunately for Los Blancos and their fans, times have changed and though Real cracked the European code for success in the passing decade, they still have a long way to go on the domestic front. Spain’s top flight enjoyed a unique golden era of quality over the last ten years with Barcelona firmly leading the way, leaving Real Madrid firmly in the dust.
66%- 20 of 30 European titles' Champions this last decade have been won by #LaLiga's teams (@ChampionsLeague, @EuropaLeague & #UEFASuperCup)@realmadriden 7 = #UCL 4 & SC 3@atletienglish 6 = #UEL 3 & SC 3@FCBarcelona 4 = #UCL 2 & SC 2@SevillaFC_ENG 3 = #UEL 3— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 27, 2019
Entering the 2020s, the Spanish capital is hungry for a proper run of domestic success and, in reviewing where the league title was won and so often lost in the 2010s, there are three ares that Real Madrid need to work on if they hope to usher in a new era of domestic dominance in 2020.
Open the season better
One of the secrets to Real Madrid’s three peat was how they closed the season. Across the last ten years, Real Madrid have always finished the campaign with a flourish, regardless of how they started. Although Los Blancos failed to reap any reward, this uptick in form is also evident in Real Madrid’s end to LaLiga. Across the last 18 league matches of the season, Real Madrid have outperformed the eventual champions in seven out of ten seasons. In contrast, they have managed to produce that form in the first 18 games on three occasions, two of those seasons ending with a league crown.
Where Barcelona have always been within three points of Real Madrid’s end of season flourish, Los Blancos are rarely close in the opening half, consistently at least four points off the pace. Real Madrid’s sluggish starts are also evident in what game weeks they have lost over the last 10 years.
Of the 51 league defeats Real Madrid have suffered since the start of the 2009/10 season, 30 came in the first 18 game weeks compared to 21 in the second half.
Even marginally improving their starts to the campaign could increase Real Madrid’s title chances significantly.
Start beating LaLiga’s top six
To win a league title, you have to beat both the sides below you and the sides around you. For the most part, Real Madrid have managed to beat the sides below them, however, beating LaLiga’s perennial top six has proved a much more difficult task. Take their last three games of 2019. Real Madrid have one of their last five visits to the Mestalla, have won six of their last ten league matches against Valencia and are winless in their last seven league matches against Barcelona.
Between 2010 and 2019, Los Blancos won just 53% of their games over LaLiga’s perennial top six this decade. In contrast, Barcelona have won 66% of their games against the top six and have lost just 15 games, Real Madrid have lost more than twice that (31).
Although this record across a decade might read somewhat positively, it has cost Real Madrid heavily season-by-season, especially since the departure of Pep Guardiola. During the Guardiola era, Real Madrid lowest points total in 12 matches against the top six was 26 points out of 36 available . Since Pep’s departure, Real Madrid have broken the 20 barrier just twice while Barcelona have consistently scored around 25 points or more in matches against the top six.
Real Madrid have shown their big-game mentality in Europe. If they wish to win league titles, they will need to bring that mentality to league matches more than they have done.
Start beating Barcelona
Last March, Barcelona overtook Real Madrid for overall Clasico wins thanks to a league victory at the Bernabeu which also effectively sealed the title. It’s a record symbolic of how the tables have turned in recent times.
Since New Year 2010, Real Madrid have recorded just four wins over Barcelona in 20 meetings, losing 11 most of them by heavy margins. Losing to your most hated rivals is painful enough, however Clasico losses have been particularly costly for Real Madrid. Eight of the 11 defeats Real Madrid have suffered at the hands of Barcelona have cost them top of the table, in six of those eight defeats, Real Madrid were league leaders preceding the game.
Some of these defeats have come late in the season, there were just six games left of the 2009/10 season when a victory over league leaders Real Madrid sent Barcelona top of the table. In 2014/15, Real Madrid’s defeat at the Camp Nou cost them a league title their performances deserved.
As much as improvement in the other areas will go a long way to improving Real’s title chances, Los Blancos must flip the tables on Barcelona if they wish to win the league title on a consistent basis. Of course, this is much easier said than done.