Real Madrid's unchallenged league title

They shone from start to finish

Posted Sunday, May 01, 2022 by

Real Madrid's unchallenged league title

The 35th league title is not just any title for Real Madrid, a seasoned champion. As they prepare to extend their trophy haul, they are enjoying their most successful campaign in recent years.

Los Blancos' dominance has been astonishing, with hardly any opposition. Their superiority was unexpected in a year that was supposed to be one of transition as they awaited their most coveted signing.

Without Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema stepped up a gear. And without Zinedine Zidane, the logic of Carlo Ancelotti prevailed. The Italian is now the only coach who can boast about being champion in the five major European leagues.

Accustomed to getting back on their feet and maintaining the highest standards, Real Madrid came into the 2021/22 season with uncertainty and an unsettling precedent. The memories of 2003, which saw the departure of Vicente del Bosque and Fernando Hierro, showed that it is not easy to replace a coach and captain without creating issues in the dressing room.

Two compounding factors and one additional element added nuance to the start of Los Blancos' campaign. The departure of Raphael Varane completely dismantled the defensive axis of the last five years, and the unsuccessful signing of Mbappe created the sense of an incomplete team.

The diplomatic Ancelotti was brought in to compensate for all the unease, and he was received warmly due to the legend of him spoiling the players too much.

Despite all of this, and the additions of David Alaba and Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid dominated the league season from the outset, although their winning ways were gradually becoming more nuanced.

They went to Mendizorroza with Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard as starters, and in fact the Welshman scored the first goal of the campaign. The new coach called upon two star players, both in terms of quality and salary. Patience was short-lived, however, and within four games they were out of the starting line-up.

Benzema, scorer of a brace in Vitoria and the focal point of Los Blancos' attack from start to finish, led from the front. "With Messi gone, Karim aspires to take the throne in LaLiga," read MARCA that August day.

What followed was a season from the Frenchman that has seen him not only win the LaLiga Santander title but also get his hands on the Pichichi Trophy, barring any late surprises. A Ballon d'Or-worthy campaign.

From the start, Benzema had found the Robin to his Batman in Vinicius Junior, who started the season on the bench but transformed himself into the player he had dreamt of being. Dynamic, explosive and, at last, decisive.

The work to improve his decision making was amazing during a stunning start to the season, which was halted against Villarreal. It was the first test that Ancelotti had to come through.

The draw against Villarreal and the defeats against Sheriff and Espanyol called into question the Italian coach's ability to make the right decisions. His response, very much in the style of Zidane was to stop rotating so heavily and to rely on the big guns, especially in midfield.

Casemiro, Toni Kroos, who was injured at the start of the season, and Luka Modric had a major role to play in the reaction, setting the tone and the style of play. Real Madrid put in some brilliant performances, especially at Granada, with a 4-1 win that saw their midfielders shine brightest.

In the next 11 games, until the winter break, Los Blancos recorded nine wins and two draws. But Real Madrid's strength was also reflected in their excellent defensive numbers, with the perfect blend of Eder Militao's pace and David Alaba's leadership. Behind them, Thibaut Courtois stood out, conceding just six goals in the 11 games that effectively cemented the league title.

Real Madrid flexed their muscles against Barcelona, showed character to come from behind against Sevilla, outplayed Atletico, and displayed the ability to survive with their backs against the wall against Athletic Club and Real Sociedad in games they won.

The second defeat of the season, which came at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez against Getafe, was soon followed by a win over Valencia and the triumph in the Supercopa de Espana, but the tight schedule and injuries saw them lose some momentum.

The draw against Elche at home and the draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica gave the impression that the title battle was heating up, yet four consecutive victories against Alaves, Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Real Mallorca followed.

Real Madrid's victories dispelled all the theories one by one. Four consecutive victories saw them all but get their hands on the title, as they first won at Celta Vigo before beating Getafe and securing a come-from-behind win against Sevilla at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. The second half at Sevilla showed why Los Blancos are this season's champions, as they demonstrated strength, desire and a never-say-die attitude. Those characteristics were also on show at El Sadar, albeit in a less stressful match.

Now, with five games left to play, Real Madrid come into their Matchday 34 clash against Espanyol with the chance to become LaLiga Santander champions. Finally, the title is within reach.

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