A Quarter-Term Report on Real Madrid

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 09: Karim Benzema (2ndR) celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates Luka Modric (3dR), Cristiano Ronaldo (R), Gareth Bale (2ndL) and Alvaro Arbeloa (L) during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol  at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 9, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

With the international break kicking in and Real Madrid not in action again until they travel to Almeria on November 23, it seems like a good time to check in on Los Blancos' progress under Carlo Ancelotti.

The Italian has already steered them through their Champions League group with two games to spare, but they have allowed Barcelona to open up a six-point gap on them at the top of La Liga.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid remain ahead of them, too.

Ancelotti has had to play his hand in accordance with the situation he landed at the club, though.

That has meant bedding in a collection of new players, as well as dealing with injuries to Xabi Alonso and Gareth Bale.

Let's take a look at how he's got on so far.

Results: B

TURIN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Juventus and Real Madrid at Juventus Arena on November 5, 2013 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Out of 17 competitive matches, Ancelotti has guided Madrid to victory in 13.

However, while the draw at Juventus is perfectly acceptable, the results against the other three sides that make up Spain's top four drag this grade down.

Points were dropped in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, while Atletico Madrid then came to the Bernabeu and won 1-0—their first league win against their rivals since 1999.

In the Clasico, Madrid also came out on the losing side.

Ancelotti experimented with Sergio Ramos in midfield and a returning Gareth Bale in a front three, allowing Barca to steal the three points.

Performances: C

While the results have, on the whole, been positive, Real Madrid's performances have often been lacking.

Even in matches they've won this season, they've often looked far from comfortable.

They struck it lucky in late away wins at Elche and Levante and, as previously mentioned, dropped points against Villarreal, Atleti and Barca.

Their Champions League form has been more impressive though—they hammered Galatasaray and Copenhagen and remained unbeaten against Juventus.

Defence: C

Real Madrid's defence has developed into a real problem area in recent weeks.

They've given away five penalties in their last four matches and have conceded 10 goals in their last five outings. It's been six games since they kept a clean sheet.

It hasn't helped that Ancelotti has constantly switched his back four around.

It's still unknown whether he favours Dani Carvajal or Alvaro Arbeloa—or neither, after he deployed Ramos at right-back recently—while he has shown no preference toward a central defensive partnership either.

To tighten up at the back, Madrid might benefit from consistency in selection—which has been the case with the goalkeeping situation, with both Diego Lopez and Iker Casillas performing well in their respective competitions.

Midfield: C

Since the return of Xabi Alonso, Madrid's midfield has began to take on slightly more shape.

He returned against Rayo Vallecano, and when he went off at halftime, the gap he left was clearly evident.

Like with the defence though, it is still not obvious who Ancelotti sees in his first choice midfield.

Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Asier Illarramendi and even Isco have all featured there this season as the 54-year-old constantly seeks the right balance.

With the return of Alonso and Ancelotti's leaning towards 4-3-3, hopefully that balance can be struck after the international break.

Attack: B

Especially of late, Madrid's attack has been the most brutal aspect of Ancelotti's reign so far.

Since Bale has returned to the side on a regular basis, he has struck up quite the partnership with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Between the three of them, they have scored 16 of Madrid's last 17 goals. They have also accounted for 11 assists.

Madrid have scored 35 goals in 13 league games, with a further 14 coming in four Champions League games. Their total of 49 betters Barca's 47.

Chief among that attack has been Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward has scored 24 goals this season, bettering any start to a season he has previously made for the club.


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