REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Courtois, Ramos, Varane on course for 32-year-old record

Madrid have not conceded as few goals at this stage of the season since 1987-88 when Paco Buyo won the Zamora and the Liga title went to the Bernabéu.

Thibaut Courtois durante el calentamiento previo al partido del jueves contra el Valencia.
JAVIER SORIANO AFP

Real Madrid have the opportunity to draw level on points with Barcelona at the top of LaLiga when they take on Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Sunday evening after Quique Setién’s side were held to a goalless draw by Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán. Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid have come back from the coronavirus-imposed league shutdown in fine form, putting three past both Eibar and Valencia while conceding just once.

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Zidane's Madrid tighter at the back than Simeone's Atlético

If Madrid are to lift the title for the first time since 2016-17 it will largely be based on their solidity at the back this season. With nine games remaining, Zidane’s side have registered their best defensive numbers at this stage of a Liga campaign in 32 years. Madrid have conceded 20 goals in 29 games, a figure not seen at the Bernabéu since the 1987-88 season when Paco Buyo was between the sticks and Madrid had conceded 19 times over the same number of fixtures. Diego Simeone’s notorious red and white wall has been breached on 22 occasions this season by comparison.

In 1987-88, Buyo went on to win the Zamora trophy and Real Madrid claimed the Liga title. Since then, only two Madrid keepers have won the award for conceding the fewest goals in a Liga season: Buyo again in 1991-92 and Iker Casillas in 2007-08. Twelve years since the former Spain stopper last added the gong to the Bernabéu trophy room, Thibaut Courtois is on course to wrest it from Atlético’s Jan Oblak, who has maintained a firm grip on it for the past four years.

Courtois on course for third Zamora trophy 

It would be Courtois’ third Zamora after he won two with Atlético between 2012 and 2014, the latter forming the bedrock of Simeone’s title-winning side of 2013-14.

Goals conceded by Real Madrid up to match day 29

Season GC Season GC
19-20 20 02-03 31
18-19 34 01-02 31
17-18 33 00-01 30
16-17 28 * 99-00 41
15-16 28 98-99 49
14-15 27 97-98 35
13-14 30 96-97 24
12-13 28 95-96 40
11-12 25 * 94-95 21
10-11 21 93-94 33
09-10 26 92-93 23
08-09 31 91-92 22
07-08 28 90-91 31
06-07 25 89-90 27
05-06 27 88-89 29
04-05 25 87-88 19
03-04 35

*28 games played due to postponements.

Madrid’s success at the back this season has been a collective effort rather than a case of Courtois making a superhuman number of saves. Only Getafe (222) have allowed fewer shots than Zidane’s side (245) while Madrid have kept more clean sheets (14) than any other side in the division. Courtois and his back-up Alphonse Areola, who has made three appearances in LaLiga, have faced the lowest number of shots overall in the league (79) while the Belgium keeper has the highest save percentage of all top-flight keepers who have played more than 160 minutes at 75.71 percent. Taking into account the three goals conceded by Areola, Courtois has been beaten just 17 times over 26 games.

Madrid have also not conceded more than twice in any Liga fixture so far this season, something that has not happened since Manuel Pellegrini was in the dugout in 2009-10. If the current trend continues, Zidane’s side are on course to end the campaign with fewer than 30 goals conceded, which has not happened since 1994-95 when Jorge Valdano delivered the Liga title.