Real Madrid struggled to get a grip in their 2-1 defeat to Villarreal at the weekend and it has raised concern in Madrid. Los Blancos have won just two of their last five league games, leaving them three points adrift of Barcelona, and starting an inquest into the reasons for that slump.
According to Diario AS, the World Cup plays a large part in it. The tournament in Qatar broke up the season for two months of intense football. Real Madrid had twelve players at the tournament, not including Karim Benzema, who went to Qatar initially but came home injured.
Each of those 12 players were analysed since, with several cases highlighted as struggling to get back into the rhythm of things. In particular, Antonio Rudiger ‘sunk’ against Villarreal, while Eder Militao did not cover himself in glory. Aurelien Tchouameni, who did make the final, was described as having his worst performance in a Madrid shirt yet. Carlo Ancelotti is also reportedly unhappy with Rudiger.
Luka Modric and Fede Valverde have also looked some way off their level since returning. Vinicius Junior continues to be Ancelotti’s most dangerous weapon, but could not convert his two clear chances against the Yellow Submarine.
Barcelona fans will point out that they had 17 players at the tournament, but none of their performances against Espanyol, Intercity or Atletico Madrid provide a convincing argument that they are coping much better.
On a positive note for Ancelotti, if this is a problem of conditioning above all, then there is a definitive fix for it. Equally, two of those matches in their last five, against Rayo Vallecano and Osasuna, came before Qatar, when the World Cup was also being blamed as a distraction.