The start of the new year has not been kind to Real Madrid despite winning their first match back against Real Valladolid as well as triumphing in their Copa del Rey fixture against Cacareño. The Madrileños did not convince in either of those matches.
The worrying display caught up to them in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Villarreal.
The home team were the better side throughout the match and should have gone into the half leading. A few interventions from Thibaut Courtois kept the hosts from taking the lead.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some talking points from the defeat.
Real Madrid second best throughout the match
The two sides went into the half scoreless but it wouldn’t take long before Villarreal took the lead. In fact, just 2 minutes into the second half, the Yellow Submarine pulled ahead.
Yéremy Pino broke the deadlock as Villarreal took advantage of a poor pass back from Ferland Mendy. Gerard Moreno was quick to intercept and he laid off to Pino. Despite a bit of a miscontrol, Pino struck the ball and Courtois got a hand to it, but his deflection hit Mendy in the chest before bounding into the back of the net.
That play was a microcosm of the game. Real Madrid weren’t at it for the third game in a row, only this time the opponent was able to take full advantage. Even when Madrid equalized, Villarreal responded not long after.
Los Blancos have gotten used to struggle in games but they always manage to find a way through. They flew too close to the sun on many occasions and were able to get away with it. This time, they got burned.
Karim Benzema continues to struggle
Benzema scored Madrid’s equalizer after the referee awarded a penalty due to a handball. The striker put it away but it brushed over what had been a poor game from the Frenchman, by his standards.
Before the penalty was awarded, Benzema had an opportunity to equalize in what was essentially an open net. There were three Villarreal defenders in front of him but for a player the caliber of Benzema, he easily puts those away.
Whether he’s still trying to find his form coming out of injury is anyone’s guess. The fact of the matter is he’s not looked his usual self despite being second in the Pichichi standings. Perhaps it’s too much to expect the same Benzema that flashed Ballon d’Or form last season. But Real Madrid need that Benzema if they want to win the Champions League and LaLiga again this season. Especially with the knowledge that there is no other striker in the side at the moment that Ancelotti trusts.
Real Madrid let slip a chance to pull ahead in LaLiga title race
With top rivals Barcelona also facing tough opposition this weekend, it was an opportunity for Madrid to pull ahead in the league table and put all the pressure on the Catalans who visit Atletico Madrid.
Instead, they’ve given Barcelona a break as a draw would now be good enough for them to take pole position.
While Madrid are sure to battle it out with Barcelona the remainder of the season, these performances have to be more than concerning for Ancelotti. Even more so considering there is unlikely to be any players brought in during the winter transfer window.
The squad Ancelotti has now is the squad he’s going to have to make use of in all three tournaments remaining. Real Madrid now travel to Saudi Arabia where they will take on Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup.