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REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: just 6 clean sheets in all competitions in 2019

It's a sobering statistic which highlights a perennial problem for Real Madrid and doesn't look like being resolved soon - in 35 games, Madrid have conceded in 29.

Real Madrid: just 6 clean sheets in all competitions in 2019
GONZALO FUENTES REUTERS

It was ironic and somehow inevitable that Keylor Navas would emerge unbeaten in his first encounter with Real Madrid - the club he left last month to gain regular minutes with Paris-Saint Germain. Keeping a clean sheet is a rare thing at his old club these days. Since their first game of 2019 - the 2-2 draw with Villarreal on 3 January, to the most recent outing - last night's 3-0 defeat to PSG, Real Madrid have played a total of 35 games across all competitions but have managed to keep a clean sheet in just six of those matches. It's a very sobering statistic which highlights a problem area which has been plagueing the team since the end of last season and doesn't look like going away.

Madrid conceded 46 goals in LaLiga last season

During 2019, Madrid have shipped a total of 49 goals in 35 matches (30 last season, five this season) - averaging more than a goal per game. But in more than 80% of their games, Madrid's opponents always score at least one goal. You can almost count the number of clean sheets Madrid have kept this year on one hand. Just a few years ago, Director of Institutional Relations Emilio Butragueño pointed out that because of Cristiano Ronaldo's goal ratio (for most of his career at Madrid, CR7 averaged a goal per game) meant that Los Blancos entered practically every game 'in the lead' thus obliging their rivals to score. Now the opposite is true. Madrid's opponents almost always score, which means Benzema, Bale, Hazard and company have to do the same at the other end.

Keylor Navas, who was dethroned as Madrid's first choice keeper last season only to make a handful of appearances between March and May, kept four clean sheets (against Celta de Vigo in Week 28, Athletic Club in Week 33, Getafe in Week 34 and in the first leg of the Copa del Rey Last 16 tie against Leganés). Thibaut Courtois emerges unbeaten just twice - against Sevilla in Week 20 and Alavés a fortnight later. Since the new season started, Madrid have seeped at least one goal in all of the five games played (Celta, Valladolid, Villarreal, Levante and PSG).  

Madrid's last clean sheet was back in April

That's not to suggest that the problem is the goalkeeper's fault. Madrid have been having problems in defence for a long time and the issues of last season have carried into this one. Most of the goals the team is conceding come from open play with some or all of the back four caught off gaurd or simply out of position. Zidane feels the problem lies in midfield with fingers being pointed to players like Toni Kroos for failing to track back - that was one of the reasons he was so keen to bring in Paul Pogba this summer - to strengthen the link between defence and midfield. Whether Zidane's plan would have resolved all or part of the matter is debatable and maybe we'll never know but it's obvious that all of problem areas Madrid had when he accepted to come back to the club back in March are still here today.