As the new season was about to begin back in August, one of the questions on people’s minds was, ‘could Real Madrid win the treble?’. Los Blancos became the first team to win the UEFA Champions League back-to-back in May, thumping Juventus in Cardiff, alongside the league title, their first double since 1966, and as the new season was about to get underway, they looked a cut above the rest.
It looked more that way when they beat Manchester United in the Super Cup, the 2-1 scoreline actually flattering the Premier League side, and trashed Barcelona home and away in the Spanish curtain raiser. Between April and August, Zinedine Zidane’s team had beaten Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, and Bayern Munich. No side stooped them from scoring for well over a year, until Real Betis popped up with a 1-0 win at the Bernabeu last September.
That was supposed to be a little, and inconsequential, stumble in their race to building a dynasty, instead it set the tone for a season of consistent stumble so far, as their last game showed, a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo on Sunday. That Celta were the better side was one thing, that Real were second-best but still managed to miss a handful of chances was another.
‘We’re sad and we’re f***ing sunk’ said left-back Marcelo. ‘We’re trying to get out of this mess and we’re working to do that, but we don’t like this at all. It’s difficult because the more matches you draw or lose, the more the pressure increases’.
And the pressure has been increasing for a while, despite Real Madrid going to the World Cup and winning it (becoming the first side to retain the trophy), they returned back to league action to suffer a 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona, one of the results that puts the team which seemed, as Catalan defender Gerard Pique said back in August, ‘inferior’ to the European champions 16 points ahead of them in the league (albeit having played a game more).
‘We can’t do anything else. We do what we can, we try to play good football, score goals and circulate the ball, but it’s not happening’ added Marcelo, who didn’t have the best of times at Balaidos at the weekend. And it hasn’t been just him, the attack isn’t quite flourishing, the creativity and pace in the side looks absent, even Marco Asensio has stopped his run of the spectacular.
At the start of the season, it seemed like this was the season Real Madrid were going to emphasise their superiority over the rest; a league title looked inevitable, a third successive Champions League crown likely, the treble in sight, but it looks to have all fallen apart, the league is all but gone, and with Paris Saint-Germain waiting in Europe in February, the Champions League might just be too.