Real Madrid: 5 burning questions after emphatic El Derbi win

Real Madrid, Luka Modric (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Luka Modric (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal
Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images) /

Can Real Madrid’s defense be as good as last season’s?

Real Madrid had the best defense in all of Europe’s top five leagues last season based on goals allowed. Thibaut Courtois went on to win the Zamora Trophy with the highest save percentage and clean sheet percentage in the league, to go with the fewest goals allowed per 90 minutes.

The numbers haven’t been as impressive this season for Courtois, but the blame is not on the Belgian goalkeeper. Los Blancos were making so many mistakes with their transition defense. They could not break down low-blocks, they would press poorly, they would lose the ball, and then they would leave their defense and goalkeeper completely exposed. We saw the worst of these problems in both losses to Shakhtar Donetsk.

But Real Madrid had no real issues against Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, and Borussia Monchengladbach in the past three games. Real have tightened up defensively. Raphael Varane has been immense. So has Casemiro. And Sergio Ramos’ return this week has been a clear boost.

As a team, Los Blancos are defending better, and with the way this squad attacks, they must likewise defend as a unified force. Zinedine Zidane’s men achieved this against both Atleti and Gladbach this week, leading to emphatic clean sheets win which each opponent had merely one great chance to put one past the elite goalkeeper. And Courtois was equal to the challenge.

There’s no reason why Real Madrid can’t have a great defense this year, too, considering they have the same core. The key will be continuing to defend as a unit, avoiding sloppy mistakes that can undo the sheer talent they have at the back.