Three talking points from Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid
An injury-marred Real Madrid dropped three points to an inspired Mallorca on Sunday as they continued their unimpressive run of form, falling to a 1-0 defeat.
Nacho Fernandez’s own goal was what separated the two sides at full-time. Despite their best efforts and a penalty kick awarded in their favour, Carlo Ancelotti’s men just could not break through the Palma-based side’s defence.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Mallorca’s narrow win over the defending champions.
1. A series of unfortunate events
Holding the tag of being one of the world’s most supreme football teams, it does not sit right to blame any Real Madrid defeat on external factors. Given the world-class squad at the manager’s disposal, excuses are unacceptable, especially in the league.
Yet, Los Blancos’ game against Mallorca seemed jinxed from the very start. As the game progressed, a domino effect set off and the situation went from bad to worse.
The first of several blows was inflicted on Ancelotti well before kickoff. Heading into the clash, the Italian tactician was already under pressure having to deal with the absences of Karim Benzema and Eder Militao. The situation significantly worsened at Son Moix.
Thibaut Courtois suffered a sudden setback during the warm-up ahead of the game and had to be replaced with Andriy Lunin at the last minute. Needless to say, the sudden change in personnel did not do the Ukrainian international any good.
Just 13 minutes into the game, Vedat Muriqi’s flick took a deflection off Nacho Fernandez and flew into the top-right corner of the goal. Not only would that be the only goal but also the match-winning moment for Mallorca.
2. The missed chance and a missed forward
After going down a goal early, Real Madrid regained a semblance of control of the game instantly. Over the first 45 minutes, the visitors had over 70% of the ball, yet, could not create a single big chance. The men in white struggled to find holes in the Mallorca and had very little to show until the 57th minute.
Just short of the hour mark, Predrag Rajkovic caught Vinicius Jr in the area and left the referee with a simple decision. Marco Asensio stood over his team’s best chance at equalising and smashed it into the bottom right corner, only for the Mallorca goalkeeper to make amends for the penalty he had conceded.
To miss a spot-kick after an hour of turmoil took the steam out of the Merengues briefly. While the shot-stopper is due his share of credit, it is almost criminal for a Real Madrid player to let go of a golden goal-scoring chance in a game of such minor margins.
It is clear that the men in white missed Benzema on Sunday, not only for the spot-kick but for his frightening presence in the opposition box.
Real Madrid’s attack looked disjointed against Mallorca, aimlessly passing the ball around without having any clear target man. The situation slightly improved after Mariano’s introduction, yet, it would have been a total difference ballgame with the Frenchman on the field.
3. An unwanted gift
The crushing result at Son Moix means that Ancelotti’s men have now dropped five of their last nine points in La Liga. When coupled with the defeat at La Ceramica last month, the aggregate adds up to eight points dropped in just five games.
Barcelona are enjoying one of their strongest campaigns in recent years and had a solid five-point gap over their arch-rivals before matchday 20.
To catch a team in such form required the men in white to stay steady and wait for the right chance to pounce. However, it now appears that they need a plan B.
Sunday’s defeat to Mallorca could place Real Madrid a whopping eight points behind Barcelona. The Catalans play Sevilla later in the night, and a win would assure them the mammoth margin.
There may be 18 rounds to go in Spain, but the title hopes already seem to be slipping away from the defending champions’ camp. All hope is not lost, but it would be better for the team to stay away from any such dream if the current form and mentality is to stay.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.