Wednesday December 20 2017
New year, new Madrid?

Real Madrid have made a rocky start to their title defence and aren't considered favourites against Paris Saint-Germain. Itayi Stott looks at what's in store for Los Blancos next year...

Despite winning five trophies this year, Real Madrid aren’t among the three favourites to lift the Champions League trophy in 2017-18. The three front-runners are Manchester City, followed by German giants Bayern Munich and French superstars Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have won the competition three times in the last four years, but this time out, they face PSG in the second round. The latter are favourites to progress to the quarter-finals - click to find Betfred's bonus to receive your free bet on Wincomparator. Two key signings - Neymar from Barcelona and Kylian Mbappe from Monaco - seem to be the ingredients the Parisians were missing to compete on the elite stage. 

Domestically speaking, Madrid won La Liga last year, beating Barcelona by three points in the overall standings. As we approach the midway point of this season, however, they sit in fourth place, 11 points behind the table-topping Catalans.

Many consider that the main reason their campaign is not progressing smoothly is due to the depth of their squad. Madrid failed to make any major signings last summer. Although Spain Under-21 midfielder Dani Ceballos has looked promising when featured in the squad, he isn’t yet fully developed as an all-round midfielder.

Los Blancos also sold striker Alvaro Morata to Chelsea for a fee of around 80m in the summer. This has come back to bite them as injuries to Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale has forced Zinedine Zidane to use some of his younger up-and-comers such as Borja Mayoral. As well as Morata, the capital heavyweights sold eight more players in the summer, including the highly-rated James Rodriguez and Portuguese defender Pepe.

On the other hand, there may be other reasons for Madrid’s slump in performance levels. Another factor could be complacency. A big question is whether Zidane has been able to keep his players motivated, when they have won practically everything in the last couple of years.

Although Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the top scorer in the Champions League with nine goals, he has struggled in La Liga, scoring only four times in 11 games. The deterioration in his prowess epitomises Madrid’s position in the League. Adding to Los Merengues’ lack of goals is their defence, which also seems a lot less stable.

Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal have had a series of injury issues, meaning the rookie duo of Jesus Vallejo and Theo Hernandez have had to step in. Although the pair look like they will turn into fine footballers one day, it’s perhaps too early for them to vie with first-class competition.

Madrid fans and players alike clearly have a deep loyalty to Zidane. After all, for the first time in their history, Real have won five trophies in one calendar year. One or two key signings in the January transfer window, coupled with Gareth Bale’s return to form, could be exactly what Zizou needs to make a statement against PSG in February.

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