REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Zidane's side match historic defensive record

With 13 goals conceded in 21 games, Zinedine Zidane's side have matched their own Liga record set in 1934-35, 1964-65 and 1987-88.

Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory over Valladolid on Sunday evening was further indication that Zinedine Zidane has managed to address one of the side’s traditional areas of weakness – the goals against column.

Madrid have always been associated with scoring goals but have faced question marks season after season regarding their defensive record. This season, Zidane’s side have matched their own historical record in LaLiga in that respect, conceding only 13 times in 21 games, a number the club have achieved only three times previously at this stage of the season, in 1934-35, 1964-65 and 1987-88. In both of the latter campaigns, Real went on to win the title, falling short in the 12-team format as Betis claimed the league by a single point.

Valencia’s defeat of Barcelona a day earlier in Mestalla gave Real the chance to go top for the first time since week eight, ending Barça’s 12-game run atop the table. And although Zidane’s side again struggled to generate scoring opportunities against Valladolid, eventually breaking the deadlock through Nacho’s 77th-minute header. But it was at the other end where Madrid showed the true bedrock of their title challenge this season: the home side were reduced to four attempts, none of which was on target. It was the third time Zidane’s defence has prevented a single shot on goal this season after the games against Sevilla in the Sánchez Pizjuán and Osasuna at the Bernabéu.

Madrid's scoring issues bolstered by back five

Madrid have been far from prolific in the first half of the campaign, scoring 39 times (by contrast José Mourinho’s record-breaking side of 2011-12 had rattled in 71 by this stage of the season). Karim Benzema’s recent drought has not helped matters after the Frenchman’s lively start to the season but Real are managing to grind out results in difficult places, the José Zorrilla the latest example of a grittier approach under Zidane than this time last season before the Frenchman’s return. On Sunday, the visitors managed just three shots on target.

Sometimes [other teams] make it difficult to play, but we will always try,” said captain Sergio Ramos on his return to the side in Valladolid. “We want people to see a committed Madrid side with a sense of identity.”

Real have now gone 19 games unbeaten in all competitions and have not tasted defeat in LaLiga since their trip to Mallorca last October, their only domestic defeat of the season. With Nacho’s goal securing a narrow win at the weekend, Real have regained the lead in the title race and with their defensive record as it stands Zidane’s side will be tough to remove as they prepare for a Madrid derby against an equally goal-shy Atlético on February 1.