Real Madrid fail to hit target for first time in a decade

Without captain Sergio Ramos, Zinedine Zidane has lost his last five games in the Champions League and in the performance in Paris was bleak.


Real Madrid stumbled badly in Paris on Wednesday evening, and that 3-0 loss in the Champions League arrived without Thomas Tuchel being able to call on his three most lethal frontmen, Cavani, Neymar and Mbappé. It was an embarrasssing result for Zidane and co. and a statistic that brought further shame was that it was the first game in which Los Blancos had failed to register a shot on target for a decade!

Real Madrid: a blunt pencil, without lead

The Spanish giants have played a total of 578 official matches in the last ten years and, in all of them, have aimed at least one effort towards the opposition goal. That was until their opening group game of the 2019/20 Champions League. And it wasn't that Zidane sent out a defensive line-up. It was a first start for the yet-to-be-truly-accepted BBH, of Bale, Benzema and Hazard. Behind them was the creativity of a seemingly revitalised James Rodríguez, while Carvajal and Mendy were there to provide width when moving forward.

In the end the visitors left having taking seven shots off target, along with the disallowed goals from Bale and Benzema for handball and offside respectively.

Following the game, the search for answers to a potentially worrying situation began. Clearly the attacking trident needs time to settle in. Of course, there are a number of injuries that are limiting the choices available to Zidane, and some have said that planned summer reinforcements never arrived in the quantity required. What was available didn't click.

Hazard lacked sharpness, was short of that killer burst of pace, and often was left isolated on the left. Benzema tried to link up play with his supporting cast, although never looked comfortable with the longer ball played up to him from the likes of Kroos. Bale, at least, did offer a threat, although wasn't in possession enough to cause enough problems for PSG and was substituted in the second half as a new solution was tried. Vinicius and Jovic were part of that attempt, but neither contributed, while James only fleetingly showed glimpses of what is expected from him.

Off target, low xG

While some observers continue to put a huge weight on the importance of shots on target defining how a match has unfolded, the more modern understanding of xG (expected goals) is a lot more accurate. You could, after all, see a team have several long range efforts easily gathered by the goalkeeper, while their opposition fires guilt-edge chances just inches wide of the mark. The latter wouldn't fare well on the 'on-target' stats, although were more likely to be the more threatening side.

Sadly for Real Madrid fans, the xG information just backed up everything that was very obvious to anyone watching.

Another historical statistic, more curious than particularly telling, is that no club has gone on to lift the Champions League after losing their opening game. In fact, only three have reached the final after being defeated on day one. That said, how the draw lines up those first matches is a huge driver in what the results are.