The beginning of a new life? Key talking points as Los Blancos discover their mojo back in La Liga
The defending league champions bounced back in dominating fashion with a convincing victory over Real Sociedad on Saturday night at Santiago Bernabeu. But is this just the beginning Real’s U-turn?
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first league hat-trick this season propelling Real Madrid to third in the table following a 5-2 thumping of Real Sociedad. Lucas Vasquez and Toni Kroos were also on scoresheet as Zinedine Zidane’s side proved they are still contenders of the title after Barcelona dropped points on Sunday. The Catalans were held to a barren draw with defensive-minded Getafe while Atletico Madrid beat Malaga 1-0 to close down on the leaders to seven points.
But it is Real’s masterclass against their opponents that brings us to the many questions we ask. Have they finally found their form back? And is this a warning to Paris Saint Germain?
The ‘sleeping lion’ waking up
At some point in the season, the Los Blancos were treading on dangerous ground. They had dropped to fourth in the table and were risking slipping further to fifth. Things were not working for Zidane and rumors surfaced of his impending sacking by the ruthless bosses.
Defeat to Villareal earlier this year and the disappointing draw with Levante created a major crisis in the team. They were even knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Leganes. Goals were not coming in, and if they did, then they were also conceding in their end. Recurring mistakes from defenders and lack of co-ordination among the players were evident. Even with easy games, they had to narrowly escape with a win.
But indeed, time heals. After few games, the Madrid team is back on track, if the home performance against Sociedad is to go by. At least one would see the old Real on Saturday, yearning for more goals even when leading. But this was against a team they had beaten in the past six games and you won’t expect any miracle this time round. In fact, Sociedad have not won at Bernabeu for more than a decade and a half now. However, that aside, Zidane should not be convinced of the results so far. He needs a much tougher opponent to prove that, indeed, he has cracked the solution to their lasting issues on the pitch.
Ronaldo’s perfect hat-trick
Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo fans found their voice after a long time when their man bagged his first league hat-trick of the season. The Portuguese international was under a serious goal drought having only scored four times in the first half of the season. However, things would then change on Saturday as he notched a perfect hat-trick and set another history.
3 – Cristiano Ronaldo is the first player to score a perfect hat-trick in La Liga this season (right foot, left foot and head). Machine. pic.twitter.com/OPU0bdQ8OR
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 10, 2018
His tally now adds up to eleven this season in the league, just nine adrift of Lionel Messi. With six goals this year, Ronaldo now becomes the leading La Liga scorer in 2018. Who would dare rule him out of the Pichichi trophy, anyway?
As usual, all eyes will be on him on Wednesday night to deliver them past a rejuvenated PSG side.
Benzema’s struggles continues
The French international alongside Ronaldo have both been the subject of major criticism whenever the club flops. However, having witnessed Ronaldo’s recent response, Benzema’s case is otherwise different, and is now experiencing probably his worse campaign at the capital.
On Saturday, it was more of the same story as Benzema still found it hard to convince his doubters. Although Zidane and some of his teammates have some faith in him, it is only a matter of time before that even fades away. The impatient fans cannot take it any longer after seeing their center-forward notch only two goals this season. He was even heckled severally on Saturday as they expressed their frustrations on him. Unlucky enough, the Frenchman even hit the bar with a close range effort after beating the keeper in first half. But do we question his accuracy? Probably yes.
Well, there are good strikers who can easily replace him and who are willing to join the club. Perhaps this would be his last season as a regular starter, or with the team. Who knows?
Beware PSG, ‘the king is back’
Champions League is set to return this week and French giants PSG will be traveling to Bernabeu for a mouthwatering clash with the defending champions. This will be PSG’s second opportunity to test their star-studded lineup against Europe’s finest, after proving us otherwise against Bayern Munich.
Real might be struggling domestically, but in Europe, they tend to be a totally different beast. During the Saturday match, the stadium announcer at Bernabeue went on to send a message to their opponents.
“Thank you fans. On Wednesday night, the king of Europe is back.”
That looks simple, but we all know the prophesy behind it. The anticipation and confidence that is building up among the home supporters. And the French club will not only have to marshal its best troops for the battle, but also generate a concrete plan to finish the job earlier.
It will be interesting to see how Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Veratti, Silva and Dani Alves take on this challenge.