Real Madrid were expected to be invincible this season after successfully defending their Champions League title and wrestling the La Liga crown from Barcelona in May 2017. However, little has gone to plan for Los Blancos this time around, and Zinedine Zidane’s men return from the winter break a full 14 points behind Barca at the top of the table.
Meanwhile, they lost to Tottenham in the Champions League, finished second in their group and have been rewarded with a nightmare last 16 draw against heavy-spending PSG. They are underdogs to qualify for the quarter-finals, and they are as long as 12/1 with some bookmakers to win La Liga, having been odds-on favourites at the start of the campaign. What has gone wrong and can they turn it around?
Well, first you have to put things in perspective. Real Madrid have already three trophies this season. They spanked Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, winning 3-1 and sparking serious dejection among senior Barca players. They swept Man United aside to win the European Super Cup, and they went to Abu Dhabi and won the Club World Cup, beating Gremio in the final. They have a 3-0 aggregate lead over Numancia in the last 16 of the Copa Del Rey and are dead certain to head into the quarter-finals. They have a great chance of winning a fourth piece of silverware in this competition.
However, the big trophies for Real Madrid are obviously La Liga and the Champions League. Many are writing off their chances of progressing in Europe’s premier competition, citing PSG’s strong form, deep pockets and sensational victory over Bayern Munich in the group stage as reasons for Real to be fearful. That is simply absurd. Real Madrid should have absolutely no fear whatsoever of PSG. They are the first team to ever successfully defend the Champions League and have repeatedly proven themselves as the best team in the competition over the past four years, winning it three times.
PSG may have spent big, but translating that into success on the biggest stage of all has never quite happened for them. The club’s Qatari owners have been throwing money around for years, but not been past the quarter-final stage, and it seems strange to see Real Madrid as the underdogs.
In Toni Kroos, Caesmiro and Luka Modric, they have the strongest and most supremely talented midfield in the world, and Cristiano Ronaldo is still a force to be reckoned with up front. The World Player of the Year has not hit his usual goal scoring heights this season, but write him off at your peril. He is an outrageously competitive individual and it should not be long before he starts putting teams to the sword on a weekly basis once more. Real Madrid at 11/10 with William Hill, Paddy Power and Sun Bets to qualify ahead of PSG looks a great bet.
They also have a game in hand on Barcelona in La Liga and can cut the deficit to 11 points. In a few weeks the margin could be a lot smaller. To be fair, they are highly unlikely to catch Barcelona, who are still unbeaten this season and are defending better than we have ever seen from them. But they should be good for second place and they really should start steamrollering teams again soon.
Real Madrid will be a wounded animal after losing 3-0 to Barca before the winter break. They will have had time to regroup collect their thoughts and plan an assault on the second half of the season, so their next few opponents should be nervous. Real Madrid play Celta Vigo away at the weekend and Real -1 Asian handicap looks really interesting at 11/14 with 188Bet, as does Real Madrid to win and over 2.5 goals at 5/6 with Ladbrokes, Coral and various others. Real are down but not out and they have more than enough quality to turn their season around and compete for plenty more silverware.