It’s been a long-anticipated wait for Spanish football fans as the remainder of the 2019/20 La Liga season is just on the horizon. Teams will finally get back underway since the Coronavirus pandemic put the season on hold for the last three months.
Before the break, Real Madrid sat in second place with 56 points, two off from rivals FC Barcelona at the top. With 11 games left to turn the tables and win the league, Zinedine Zidane’s side can’t afford a slow start coming out of the gates.
However, teams are often rusty after a gap in play and it takes a while for the players to regroup and feel connected on the pitch. Like a summer pre-season, this mid-season break poses the same difficulties and then some. Shaking off the rust early will be crucial as the club finishes the season.
According to a press release, the team trained together as a group for the first time on June 7 in their fourth week of training. Prior to that, social distancing rules limited players to train in smaller groups. So the club has one week left to get back to playing like a unit. But looking at this year’s pre-season campaign, it took longer than seven days for the club to start getting into gear.
During the 2019 International Champions Cup, a Real Madrid side featuring 300 million euros worth of new signings had a terrible campaign. The club lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich and tied Arsenal 2-2 (though eventually winning on penalties). Plus, who could forget that 7-3 demolishing at the hands of Atletico Madrid?
After the American tournament in July, La Liga kicked off about a month later. At first, Real started strong with a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo but then dropped points against Valladolid and Villarreal. It wasn’t until after a 1-0 loss to Mallorca that things started turning around for the club as they went undefeated in the league for 15 games.
Yet now, time isn’t on Zidane’s side. They don’t have months to develop their game but weeks. And these next few weeks will be some of the toughest for the club physically and mentally.
Fortunately, on the physical side of things, most of their squad will be able to play. Specifically the return of Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio (who hasn’t played all season) are bonuses. Luka Jovic is currently the only player unable to play though, long breaks can also mean higher injury rates.
Leading up to their first game back against Eibar on June 14, many players have vocalized how the club is ready to get back into the swings of things and return to the pitch.
Lucas Vazquez and Brahim Diaz said the squad is ready to play 11 cup finals while Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema noted that the lack of time on the ball can affect their game but the team is working together to get ready.
Kroos put the approach towards the final elven games in the simplest perspective: ”...the team that adapts better to this situation is the one that will win.”
Though the quality of play may be lower than usual given the lack of training over the past three months, if Zidane can get his men to shift into gear quicker than they did at the beginning of the season it could turn out to be a promising end to their campaign.
It’s going to be a long few weeks for football fans with many Madridistas holding their breath. But in the wake of what will be one of the toughest test’s for Real Madrid this season, it’s important to remember to be fortunate that we can even watch them finish the season at all.
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