Football Features

“Real Madrid’s Vibranium Shield” – Five reasons Los Blancos should be favourites to win La Liga

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 23:34, 21 June 2020

In an eventful night of football, Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 1-2 at Anoeta to go top of LaLiga.

With just eight games left to play, that win should make them heavy favourites to win the competition. Here are five reasons why that status is absolutely deserved and why they should, miracles aside, win the title.

1. They’re top

The most obvious reason why Madrid should be favourites to win La Liga is that thanks to their victory over Real Sociedad, they are now top of the table. Given the way Madrid are, a team that plays so much with confidence, being the leader should be a great boon to them.

We have seen through their play at Anoeta that they love to lead from the front (when their captain is on the field, anyway) and so knowing that Barcelona are chasing them will motivate Los Blancos to keep on churning out wins (which is all they have to do to win La Liga).

2. They hold the tiebreaker on Barcelona

The reason Madrid are top is the other reason why they’re favourites: they hold the head-to-head edge against Barcelona. When teams are level on points in La Liga, the first tiebreaker is not goal difference but the seasonal head-to-head record The pair drew the first Clásico 0-0 after it was rescheduled for specious reasons, and Los Blancos won the second Clásico 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

This means that not only are Madrid top now, but even if they drop points they know that if they finish level on points with the Blaugrana, the title will be theirs. They will also know that they’ve already won La Liga this way, claiming the 2006/07 title via the head-to-head tiebreaker – Sergio Ramos and Marcelo were part of that side and will be keen to lead their men over the line in 2020.

3. Their defence

Madrid’s defence has been absolutely outrageous. Zinedine Zidane saw that he didn’t have a lot of firepower in the side, and sure enough whilst Madrid’s two top scorers gave them the win in Anoeta, they were Karim Benzema with his 17th goal of the season and Sergio Ramos… with his 7th. But they’re top because they’ve only conceded 21 goals this season. 21! That’s less than Atlético Madrid! They are facing down LaLiga’s sharpest attacks with an impenetrable vibranium shield.

Los Blancos just don’t ship chances, not too many of them anyway. And then when opponents do manage to get a shot off they find the frame of Thibaut Courtois quite impassable in the net. As we saw today it took a close-range missile off the crossbar to finally beat the Belgian and that was one of La Real’s two real good chances. More often than not, Madrid handled them with ease. That is a title-winning defence full of athletic ability, warrior grit, dark arts devilry and technical excellence.

4. Their squad depth

Madrid’s squad depth is absurd. Like when they last won La Liga in 2016/17, Los Blancos have an embarrassment of riches to call on in terms of strength in depth. Being able to choose between Ferland Mendy and Marcelo at left-back is absurd and gives Zinedine Zidane such options when it comes to controlling what kind of game Madrid play. At centre-back Eder Militao could start for 17 of the 20 sides in the division, but he’s mostly on the bench for Los Blancos, but then performs admirably when called upon.

They’re shallow in midfield, with just four men for three spots but their attack is so absurdly stacked you often don’t realise it. Madrid have Isco, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vázquez, Rodrygo Goes and Luka Jovic as players who have less than 1,000 minutes in La Liga out of Zidane’s tactical decisions (Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio have had injury issues). Today against Real Sociedad, James made his first appearance since October. Imagine being able to keep a player as good as James Rodriguez in reserve! Madness.

5. They’re lucky

When all else fails: be lucky. Some sides are good, some sides are lucky, but legendary, title-winning sides are always both. And whilst Madrid have lots of quality, as evidence by Vinicius Junior’s run to win Sergio Ramos’ penalty tonight, or Karim Benzema’s sublime shot on the spin to double Los Blancos’ lead. Or the attacking move that led to Sergio Ramos’ strike against EIbar.

But then, they’re also very lucky. Vinicius’ run was amazing but he fell over under his own power, yet the referee and VAR gave the penalty. Benzema’s spin and shot was supreme but he controlled the ball with the lower part of his shoulder which, for many other players in LaLiga is often given as handball.

And of course sandwiched between those two moments of luck was VAR disallowing a La Real goal because of a perceived obstruction of Thibaut Courtois’ vision (he was mostly obstructed by his own defenders). That call was made even more galling as it followed Valencia having a goal disallowed by VAR for similarly tenuous reasons at 0-0 against Madrid midweek.

Sure, Madrid have been the better team in all three of their games since La Liga’s restart, and deserved to win them all, but they have also had big slices of luck to help them pick up those deserved wins. And if you look forward to the remaining eight games, and then look at Real Madrid playing with this combination of talent and luck, you can’t see anything but a title win for Los Blancos.