Real Madrid: The starting defense has no weak link

Real Madrid had La Liga’s best defense in 2019-2020, and they have no weak link in the back four.

Los Blancos enjoyed an excellent bounce-back campaign in 2019-2020 under manager Zinedine Zidane, who took Real Madrid from the most disappointing team in Europe in 2018-2019 to arguably the best team in Europe by the time the season ended.

No part of the team bore more responsibility for Real’s 34th title victory than the defense.

Thibaut Courtois won the Zamora Trophy in goal. Ferland Mendy was the signing of the season at left back. Sergio Ramos scored 10 goals from center back. Raphael Varane was the league’s best defender next to him. And Dani Carvajal shook off inconsistency to return to form as the league’s top right back.

Real Madrid are at their best with a strong defense, especially in a La Liga that is becoming increasingly stingy and more tactical. No goal had fewer goals per game than La Liga, and matches against Athletic Bilbao, Getafe, and Atletico Madrid exemplify just how difficult it is to score against the best teams in the league.

Los Blancos posted a superior defensive record to Atleti, allowing a mere 25 goals or 0.66 goals per game. That record was even better with Courtois in goal, as he allowed fewer than 0.60 goals per 90 minutes and led the league in clean sheets. Courtois was the great equalizer. On the rare occasions the midfield and defense wilted, Courtois could make a decisive parry.

That starting defense, looking at the back four, is without weakness when all four men are healthy. Ramos and Varane’s vision, aerial ability, and instincts are peerless, as is their composure and passing at the back.

Look no further than their masterclass against Barcelona in the 2-0 March victory to see how they can mark world-class forwards out of a match, working to stop dangerous runs off the ball before they can develop into something more.

On the flanks, Mendy and Carvajal are the exact kind of fullbacks a team dreams of in the modern game. Both are capable of adding a lot to the attack with their work rate. Carvajal has always been a good crosser and technical player, generally acclaimed as the best right back in the world over the last five years. But Mendy can become even better, as exemplified by his improving offensive game, including a world-class goal against Granada.

Next: 5 reasons Real Madrid can win the Champions League

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Real Madrid’s defense has become the envy of every other team’s, with the possible exception of Liverpool. They are disciplined, multi-talented, and consistent. Their track record in 2019-2020 speaks for itself, and if Real can withstand Manchester City without Ramos, that defense could be the catalyst to a Champions League title victory.

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