Real Madrid has done it. Real Madrid has climbed back on top of the mountain and captured the most important trophy in Spanish football. With Thursday’s 2-1 win over Villarreal, Real Madrid captured this year’s La Liga title. It was a hard road back up to the top but the struggle was worth it.
Real Madrid struggled after defeating Liverpool 2-1 in the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final to capture their third straight UCL title. Their superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, left for Juventus and Real Madrid did not find an adequate replacement. Also, manager and club legend Zinedine Zidane stepped down as manager after the victory. Real Madrid’s run of titles in the UCL ended abruptly as they were eliminated by Ajax 5-3 in the UCL round of 16 last year. They also finished third in La Liga, trailing league winners FC Barcelona by 21 points.
Zidane returned as manager last March and came into the season with a challenge of bringing back success to a team seemingly past their heyday with a similar roster that struggled the year before.
Yes, they signed former Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, but he missed most of the year with an injury.
During the year, Madrid still had their struggles. In the UCL, they lost 3-0 at PSG and lost 2-1 to Manchester City at home in the first leg of the UCL Round of 16 before the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, their La Liga action saw them beat FC Barcelona 2-0, but lose to mid-table teams in Levante and Real Betis.
However, all those struggles became a distant memory as Real Madrid dominated the league after play resumed and took advantage of Barcelona’s struggles to clinch the title. The same squad, with a couple changes, played much better than last season while Barcelona’s squad regressed.
A lot of credit must go to Zidane and the squad for their turnaround. While many factors contributed, such as goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois having a vastly improved second season with the club and young players stepping up to provide depth, the two biggest factors were a stellar defense and an incredible month from striker Karim Benzema and defender Sergio Ramos since play resumed.
Madrid’s defense is anchored by captain Sergio Ramos and French defender Raphael Varane. These two stepped up to lead a fantastic lockdown defense that limited the opposition from scoring better than anyone in Europe’s top-five leagues. They conceded 0.62 goals per match, the lowest in the five major leagues. In the 10 matches since play resumed, they conceded only four goals.
However, Real Madrid would not have won all 10 of these matches without the brilliance and clutch goals from Benzema and Ramos. They would combine to score 12 goals (seven from Benzema and five from Ramos) with eight of them coming in the second half. Benzema, with 21 goals in league play this season, has stepped up in Ronaldo’s absence and has finally provided the club with a legit scoring option in clutch time. This knack for clutch goals propelled Madrid to a perfect record since the restart and a badly needed La Liga title.
While Real Madrid is in danger of losing to Manchester City when UCL play resumes, the potential disappointment will be lessened with this title. Zidane helped engineer an incredible turnaround and Real Madrid fans should be excited about the future.
Enjoy this one Real Madrid fans. You earned it!