Real Madrid find themselves eight points behind rivals Barcelona in La Liga, just one game into the second half of the league season. While they remain in the Copa del Rey, and unlike Barcelona, in the Champions League, the Real Madrid squad looks increasingly thin as injuries bite.
So far this season Thibaut Courtois and Karim Benzema have missed a number of games through injury, which no doubt has had serious consequences for their season. The pair were arguably the most decisive players for Real Madrid last season.
Yet if you add injuries to Luka Modric, Aurelien Tchouameni, Eder Militao, David Alaba, Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal, all of whom have missed multiple weeks through injury this season, it begins to have major impact on the season.
Real Madrid did not consider strengthening in the January window and as they manage several veteran stars, at times they have looked short of impetus. The likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have suffered in particular from the break, while Benzema has arguably not been 100% sharp all season.
Last campaign Los Blancos managed things carefully and perfectly in terms of rotation, but had the advantage of a relatively comfortable lead in La Liga. This season with the added games of Supercups, the Club World Cup and the strange fitness regime required by the World Cup, it has burdened Los Blancos greatly.
However there seems little appetite to address the matter. Despite his public discourse, Fichajes say that Ancelotti has been asking for reinforcements privately, but is almost powerless to influence the transfer policy at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This appears to be illustrated by the attitude to the right-back position. Reportedly, Real Madrid do not intend to strengthen at the position in the summer, instead persevering with Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez and potentially Vinicius Tobias, if they decide to activate his release clause in the summer.
There are doubts about Vazquez’s suitability to matches against top opposition as a right-back, while Carvajal’s level and fitness have fluctuated dramatically over the last two seasons. Tobias is well-liked at the club, but is something of an unknown quantity at this stage.
It confirms a concerning pattern for Madridistas. While the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos have stepped up in 2023, there is a reluctance to pad out the squad with quality options.
In recent history, Los Blancos have only pursued either major big money stars, wonderkids, or pricey free agents in the case of Antonio Rudiger and Alaba. There has been no attempt to add alternatives in their mid-to-late twenties to compete for positions.
The injuries this season were not unpredictable with an aging squad coming off a long season into a longer one. Yet there was no effort to add to the squad. While there is strength in depth in certain positions, had Ceballos not found his form, Los Blancos would be lost in midfield. At right-back they have reverted often to Nacho Fernandez, while moving Eduardo Camavinga to left-back. Particularly stark was the presence of Mariano Diaz when Real Madrid needed a goal against Real Mallorca on Sunday.
Last season went swimmingly for Real Madrid, with the squad managing two competitions just right. However rarely will they face such a poor challenge in La Liga and while their Champions League run was mythical, repeating it looks nigh-on impossible. As Real Madrid continue to rely heavily on the likes of Kroos, Modric and Benzema, they cannot afford to leave themselves short on depth next season.