After managing more than 20 consecutive victories towards the end of 2014, it seemed almost certain that Real Madrid were going to end their league title drought this season. This has all changed in the last month, as Barcelona have regained the advantage in the la Liga. The Catalan club extended this advantage after a 2-1 win at the Camp Nou against one of the fiercest rivals. Madrid’s El Clasico defeat has left the club four points behind Barcelona.
The club has already lifted the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, but growing rumours from the club appear to suggest that they do not see Ancelotti staying at the club beyond the summer. It may seem quite a surprise that they are ready to sack a manager, who won the Champions League less than 12 months ago. However, it should be taken into consideration that this is the highly political club called Real Madrid. Former title winning managers like Vicente del Bosque and Fabio Capello were shown the doors rather quickly.
It has long been maintained that Carlo Ancelotti was on the verge of being sacked after the Champions League final had Sergio Ramos not come up with the equaliser just seconds before the final whistle. Real Madrid were on the verge of a defeat against their local rivals Atletico Madrid in club football’s biggest stage. Ancelotti not only had a miraculous escape but he also received a glowing praise for being the manager who finally led the club to a 10th European cup. The Italian may not be so lucky this campaign.
There have been several concerns about the team in the last month and it is not only limited to the form of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar looked like being capable of breaking all the scoring records this season. Since the sending-off against Cordoba, the 30-year-old has managed just three league goals in eight matches. This would not be seen as a major goal drought for any other player, but it is certainly a drought for someone who has averaged more than a goal per game for the last five years.
The team spirit and the willingness to fight for the team have been questioned in recent weeks. Ronaldo’s petulance when not being able to score has been well documented, while Gareth Bale looks like a shadow of the player who was signed for a world record transfer fee from Tottenham in 2013. The Welshman had a decent first half against Barcelona, but went completely missing in the second half. Bale was not the only one to perform poorly on the night, as Madrid collectively allowed Barcelona to dominate in the second half.
Ancelotti refused to entertain the talk of the title race being done and dusted in Spain. A four-point advantage with 10 matches remaining may not seem excessive in other leagues, but Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate the league so much that it is easy to run out of matches.
In the past, Madrid have been able to concentrate on the Champions League as a result of an early setback in the league. When put forth with the same possibility for the season, Ancelotti refused to suggest that defending the Champions League would be given more priority.
Madrid are drawn against arch-rivals Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals. The first leg will be at the Vicente Calderon with Madrid backed at 8/5 for a victory. They are pushed into third place – from the position of being favourites – for success in the competition. Bayern Munich are the clear favourites at 15/8 followed by Barcelona at 5/2.
At this rate, Madrid may not end up lifting any end of the season trophies. Ancelotti will have to quickly sort out the team’s priorities and also try to eliminate any egos within the team.