Far from them usual selves, far from the best form and performances and far from their goal scoring displays, Real Madrid have had to rely on rare heroes as they made their way to the top of La Liga alongside struggling Barcelona. After draws against Malaga and Atletico Madrid in the league, many started casting doubts about the ability of Rafael Benitez’s side to compete for the tital but a vital victory against Levante was necessary to show that the team has changed its style. Among those who are shining are Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas and left-back Marcelo.
Los Merengues have been plagued with injuries just like their Catalan counterparts but their changed approach has enabled them to come out with the least amount of damage thanks to a formidable defensive line and great leadership from Marcelo. The failure to sign David De Gea in the summer transfer window allowed Navas to shine in between the posts and gain the support of Madrid fans game after game. The league leaders have only conceded three times, less than any other side and scored 21, more than any other side as well.
Marcelo’s been learning how to lead his side with great composure and his work rate was rewarded with a goal against Levante as he made several runs into the opposition’s half. As Gareth Bale continues with his poor performances, it was Marcelo who’s been starting the play and running the ball forward. With Real Madrid playing mid-week European games against clubs like Paris Saint-Germain it was not a surprise at all that an on-form team like Celta Vigo was able to dominate the pitch against them. Despite that, Los Blancos emerged as winners and Marcelo scored yet again.
27-year-old Marcelo is in his 9th year at the club. A total of 321 matches for the club has enabled him to become a leader often wearing the captain’s armband on the pitch. His ability to play deep at the back and far up front as well as his consistent performances give Benitez a plethora of tactical options in terms of both attacking and defensive mindsets. To Madrid’s lucky, he has avoided injury this season and has featured in all nine league games and missing only one game out of three in the Champions League. He’s yet to record an assist but he averages 1.7 key passes per game, quite a high number for a player who plays in his position. Marcelo is Madrid’s highest dribbler averaging 2 per game (Ronaldo is at 1.7).
A decisive win against Celta Vigo placed both Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of their league. Nevertheless, the challenge for the title is still wide open, Atletico Madrid are not far away and Celta Vigo will put a big fight before letting go. The first Clasico will be played in Madrid. This could prove to be in Madrid’s favor as they try to gain as much momentum as possible in Messi’s absence. If Madrid’s back-line remains as solid as it is, points and wins will come, sometimes in ugly ways but the title could soon be won by Los Merengues after a long wait thanks to unsung hero, Marcelo.