Looking at the current La Liga table, most of the names in the top half of the table are recognizable. Barcelona holds the top spot after five games, and Atletico Madrid is in third place. The second spot, however, is currently held by Sevilla FC. One would expect Real Madrid to be in one of the top two spots, but Los Galacticos are currently mired in eighth place, looking up at teams such as Real Betis and Real Sociedad.
While only five games into a long 38-game season in La Liga, many seem to be predicting the demise of Real Madrid, at least in the current campaign. Looking at the team itself, one has to wonder what crystal ball these prognosticators are using. At the end of the La Liga season, there can be little doubt that once again Los Galacticos will finish in one of the top two spots. There are a number of reasons to support this line of thinking. Here are a few main ones.
The Veterans Will Provide Leadership
With names such as Sergio Ramos and Marcelo in the back, as well as Luca Modric and Toni Kroos in the midfield, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front, this is a team with proven veterans at every position. While it is a long season, these players will step up and take charge of any game that is not going according to plan. Each is a proven winner whose attitude will provide the necessary leadership throughout the campaign.
Depth at Every Position
Often referred to as the best team money can buy, Real’s substitutes would probably be part of the starting eleven on most other European clubs. If Bale or Benzema are having a sub-par game or sustain an injury, players such as Lucas Vazquez or Borja Mayoral can capably take their place. The same is true of any other position on the field including goalkeeper, where veteran Kiko Casilla is the backup to starter and Costa Rican international Keylor Navas. There is no other team in La Liga that has the quality of depth that Real Madrid has at each position, including current league-leader Barcelona.
Management is Committed to the Current Squad
Although a team such as Real Madrid is always looking for better players at all positions, they are currently making a effort to re-sign the players that are currently on the roster. On Thursday, Benzema inked a deal that will keep him with Los Blancos through 2021, when he will turn 33 years old. Included in the contract is a buy-out clause of over $1 billion, demonstrating the club’s resolve to retain the striker. Earlier in the week, midfielders Dani Carvajal and Isco signed contract extensions that will keep them in Madrid until 2022. While each player is a couple years younger than Benzema, extensions such as these show the commitment President Florentino Perez is demonstrating to his current squad.
Never-Ending Search for Squad Improvement
While seemingly content with the squad right now, Real Madrid is still on the lookout to improve both short-term and long-term. Manchester United and Spanish international goalkeeper David De Gea is continually being courted as the franchise netminder for Los Blancos, having passed the age of 30. Striker Robert Lewandowski is rumored to be leaving Bayern Munich for Real Madrid, perhaps as soon as the next transfer window opening in January 2018. It is no secret that Ronaldo may have crested in his career at age 32 and might be relied upon as more of a role player than a starter.
Barcelona Will Falter at Some Point
Given the likelihood that Barcelona will be Real Madrid’s toughest competitor in La Liga, they are not without their issues as well. Since losing Neymar to PSG, they have been heavily reliant on Lionel Messi. While he is arguably one of the best to ever play the game, he has passed the age of 30 and is susceptible to injury as well as the day-to-day wear and tear associated with football. Messi is still on the roster of the Argentina national team, placing more stress on his body. It is unreasonable to think that a player such as Messi will not sustain some injury during the current campaign, and certainly unreasonable to believe that the Blaugranas have any rostered player that can take his place in the event of an injury.
Aside from potential injury issues and a relatively weak bench, it is no secret that Barcelona’s defense is aging and at times porous. Barca manager Ernesto Valverde said at the Friday news conference that the season is long and they could falter during some matches as well. With that being said, there will be two La Liga matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid during the season, so let the games (truly) begin.