There are many factors behind Real Madrid’s poor form in La Liga this season, but there is one obvious reason behind their weakness in the Primera Division – they are still struggling for goals.
Madrid beat Betis 2-1 at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday night with a last-gasp victory secured thanks to long-range efforts from Luka Modric and Dani Ceballos. Two moments of individual brilliance that saved face for coach Santiago Solari.
Real also ended the evening in Seville with just 26.3% of the possession. They hardly had the ball and with Isco left out altogether and not brought on once again, presumably Solari was content that way.
Solari’s side finished the game at Betis with a forward line featuring 18-year-old Vinicius Junior, 19-year-old Brahim Diaz and 21-year-old Cristo Gonzalez. And while that may well be an attack for the future, it is not good enough for the present.
Cristiano Ronaldo left in the summer and was not replaced, while Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio are injured. Karim Benzema went off with what looked like a dislocated finger and Lucas Vazquez was suspended.
But even if all of those players (except for the Portuguese who is no longer around) had been available, Madrid’s attack still pales in comparison to Barcelona’s.
Barca ended their game with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele also on the pitch. An embarrassment of riches compared to the paucity of their rivals’ ranks up front in the later game.
It probably explains why the Catalans are 10 points ahead of Los Blancos in La Liga, and certainly why Valverde’s side have scored 53 to Madrid’s 28 in the competition so far.
Vinicius is a great talent and did himself credit again with a lively display in Seville, while Brahim is an exciting signing and should go on to be an important acquisition for Real. But they are far from the finished article.
Meanwhile, Bale’s fitness problems mean it is difficult to rely on him, while Benzema is as much a creator as he is a finisher and Isco is being frozen out by Solari. He is not a goalscorer, in any case.
For Barca, Suarez looked back to his best with two wonderful examples of centre-forward play in his goals, while Messi hit his 400th in La Liga with a super strike of his own. Coutinho, under scrutiny of late following some indifferent displays, also shone and Dembele impressed off the bench.
Real would love to have any one of those players at the moment and it is a concern for the European champions in the remainder of this season.
Solari’s side may still be alive in all three competitions, but their lack of goals means Madrid do not look good enough to win a major trophy this time around and on Sunday, Suarez and Messi showed them just what they are missing as Barca stay on course for yet another league title.