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Five gameweeks have flown by in Spain, and the table has a familiar occupant at the summit. Real Madrid, despite playing only four matches in La Liga, are sitting pretty at the top with 10 points, narrowly edging second-placed Real Betis.
Los Blancos’ bitter rivals, Barcelona, are currently fifth in La Liga, but the Blaugrana have played two games fewer than Betis or third-placed Real Sociedad.
Managing three wins and a draw at some tricky venues is impressive in itself. However, add the absence of Eden Hazard into the mix, and you’re bound to be a little awestruck. Yes, Real Madrid haven’t been at their best, but they are still where they want to be – at the top and looking down.
As per the recent medical reports, Eden Hazard is expecting to make a comeback sooner than anticipated. The Belgian skipper is reportedly feeling better and wants to return to action as soon as possible.
Real Madrid — spearheaded by the ever-so-composed Zinedine Zidane — aren’t looking to rush his recovery and want him to take as much time he needs to attain maximum fitness. They cannot afford a relapse, especially when the going gets tough.
Real Madrid’s upcoming fixtures
Speaking of fixtures, Real Madrid are set to face Cadiz, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Barcelona in the next 10 days. With little recovery and plenty of competitive football, it’s the first rough patch Los Blancos’ are going to hit this season, and they must make sure to aim for maximum points.
Against newly-promoted Cadiz, Real Madrid shouldn’t have too many problems. However, defeating low-calibre opponents hasn’t exactly been Real Madrid’s strong suit lately.
They were made to sweat in their 1-0 win against Real Valladolid — the 20th side in the division — and could’ve very well settled for a draw at Betis. Cadiz, who are occupying the ninth position in the league, aren’t exactly on Betis’ level but they can make Real Madrid work for their paycheque.
Real Madrid not only need a win against Cadiz, they need to impress their doubters. Their level of football has been below par, so far, and they need to address the issue as soon as possible.
After the league showdown on Saturday, Real Madrid will kick-off their Champions League campaign at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, hosting Shakhtar on Wednesday.
With two wins and three draws, Shakhtar are currently fourth in the Ukrainian league. Their form isn’t alarming, per se, but they certainly seem capable of stealing some points off the 13-time champions.
Coming into the Champions League campaign on the back of two successive round-of-16 exits, Real Madrid simply cannot afford to slack off. Their recent heroics in the competitions have bought them some time, but Madridistas are known to be a spoilt bunch.
If the first two games don’t get the juices flowing, Real’s final hurdle of the stretch is bound to get the job done. At the Camp Nou, against their nastiest rivals, Zinedine Zidane’s Whites would have their first real stress test; show the world whether they are capable of keeping their nerve even when the odds are stacked against them.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have also started the season strongly and have already netted eight goals in only three games. Their defence looks refined and the attackers seem more comfortable on the ball.
Real Madrid know the history of Clasicos better than anyone. They know how ruthless Madridistas can be. They have the benefit of playing at an empty Camp Nou, but the team they’d be facing won’t make it any easier. A win at Camp Nou could push Real Madrid to greater things. A defeat, on the other hand, could make like incredibly difficult.
The next two weeks are bound to be massive for the defending La Liga champions. They’ll need to find their rhythm, sort out the lapses in the final third, and somehow keep the wolves from stealing their throne.
The task is daunting, of course, but Real Madrid — the most successful club in history — have rarely been scared of going against the odds.