Oh my goodness — 2020 is only a week old and Real Madird news is filling the social media landscape. Before Real Madrid departed on a charter to Jeddah on Mondy, the Club dropped two surprising medical reports. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale were excluded from the Spanish Supercup team roster due to a left leg semimembranosus muscle injury and respiratory illness respectively. With lightning speed, Madridistas hit the digital platforms to voice disappointment and resignation. However, as we have seen time & time again, Real Madrid finds a way to win. In this Arabian expedition, defense will be the key to bringing the Club’s 11th Spanish Supercup to Chamartín.
The old sports adage “defense wins championships” has been coined repeatedly, especially in the United States during the major league playoffs. That motto could not be more fitting for the current Real Madrid situation. Over the last four Liga games (vs Valencia, vs Barcelona, vs Athletic Bilbao, vs Getafe), the team has conceded only one goal. Three of the four teams are quality rivals because they are currently in European knockout competition. Zinédine Zidane and the team have found a consistent formula to handle individual assignments, communicate for assistance, anticipate set plays, and execute interventions or recoveries without fouling excessively.
Aside from this systemic renaissance, the two players who should have prominent roles are Thibaut Courtois and Raphael Varane. If Real Madrid are to lift the trophy on Sunday, the Belgian has to keep the net empty. His recent form, especially the four spectacular first-half saves at Getafe last Saturday, is giving the back line extra confidence and hushing naysayers. With Raphael Varane, he is no longer the quiet kid following Sergio Ramos’ lead but a poised conductor orchestrating the defense. On the offensive side, his superior leaping ability was rewarded with two header goals against Getafe to put the team in the driver’s seat towards three valuable points. Since the top two forwards are unavailable, “tall trees” Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, and Luka Jović will need to capitalize on every corner and indirect free kick.
Clean sheets and goals off free kick situations are what Real Madrid should focus on as the keys to success in Saudi Arabia. For those Madridistas who are already writing off the team’s chances, let me remind you that in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final, Real Madrid, without Cristiano Ronaldo, was a distant underdog against the competition’s top winner Barcelona with Lionel Messi and Neymar. We remember how that evening in Mestalla turned out. In the end, Real Madrid is riding the best defense since the second half of the 2016 season. Have no fear nor rancor Madridistas. This Supercup is the perfect post-Three King’s Day gift. If the team succeeds, the Club’s “Poker Quest” will really lift off. Let’s go Real, 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)