Why Real Madrid fell short of theLaLiga record: 5 key mistakes

Several key factors denied Zinedine Zidane the LaLiga wins record. His side stay top but will be keen to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Why Real Madrid fell short of theLaLiga record: 5 key mistakes
JuanJo Martín EFE

Real Madrid failed to break Barcelona’s record of 16 straight LaLiga wins on Wednesday night after Villarreal held them to a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu. Like Guardiola back in 2010-11, Zidane was undone by a 1-1 draw in the 17th game. But why? We break down the game and pick out five key factors in the club’s failure to break the record.

1. A poor first half

Real Madrid are getting used to fighting back in the second half after a poor showing in the first. It’s a worrying trend. It happened against Celta, against Sporting last week and again against Villarreal. They didn’t even register a first half shot on goal. Zidane has often relied on second-half substitutions to turn the game around but is well aware that in-game changes won’t always work. “You can’t always win at the last minute,” he said after the final whistle. “We gave away too much in the first half… it’s something we need to fix.”

Zidane has been forced to rely on substitutions changing things around after poor first halves

2. Sloppiness after Marcelo’s injury

Carvajal took a whole three minutes to get ready to replace Marcelo when the Brazilian went off injured. No Madrid player had the presence of mind to kick the ball out of play to allow him to come on. And it was during those three minutes that Villarreal scored. Real Madrid played with 10 men in the build-up to the penalty and only got back to full strength once Bruno had put Villarreal 1-0 up. It was sloppy and showed a lack of awareness.

Carvajal took too long to get ready to replace Marcelo, giving Villarreal a one man advantage

3. Big mistakes by Varane and Ramos

Sergio Ramos repeated his handball antics from last Sunday against Espanyol – and this time he was caught out – but the big mistake that gave Villarreal their chance was committed by Varane. The Frenchman, in a show of unnecessary overconfidence, opted for a stepover instead of clearing the ball and lost possession on the edge of the box, leaving Ramos to block with his hands for the second time in the space of a week.

A comedy of errors from Sergio Ramos and Varane gifted Villarreal a penalty before half-time

4. Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo are not completely fit while Morata and Lucas Vázquez sit on the bench

Cristiano and Benzema are not 100% fit and it shows. But for Zidane, unless they’re outright injured, they’re the first names on the team sheet. Only Bale played well going forward and he was substituted after 72 minutes for Lucas Vázquez as part of his ongoing recovery from injury. Álvaro Morata, who is in excellent form, came on for Benzema with 15 minutes to go and together with Lucas instantly made Real Madrid a far more dangerous proposition. If only they had had more time Zidane’s side might have found a way through.

Cristiano Ronaldo isn't fully fit and it shows

5. The absence of Luka Modric

Zinedine Zidane decided before the Villarreal match that Luka Modric would be rotated to give him a rest but it’s undeniable that Real Madrid are a very different team when he doesn’t play. Nobody gives the side that creative inspiration in the middle of the park quite like he does and he is sorely missed. Kovacic battled well but lacked Modric’s awareness. Madrid struggle to play in tight spaces when he’s missing.

Real Madrid miss Luka Modric's ability to play in tight spaces