Real Madrid: The 3 biggest surprises of the season thus far

Real Madrid, Marco Asensio (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Marco Asensio (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have now played 27 matches in La Liga following their 2-1 win over Elche on Saturday afternoon at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. It has been a wild season thus far with about 10 games left in the league calendar and a whole lot of ball left in the Champions League.

What have been the biggest surprises to this point in the season? Let’s take a look.

Marco Asensio’s struggles

Marco Asensio was instrumental in Real Madrid’s La Liga triumph this past summer, as he contributed goals from the moment he stepped onto the pitch against Valencia in his return from injury. Literally!

But Asensio has struggled severely in the 2020-2021 season. He did not score or assist in his first 12 matches of the La Liga campaign, and he has not scored in six starts since. Asensio gave Madridistas reason for optimism last summer, but he has become a weekly target of criticism from a fanbase that expects so much more from the once-promising prospect.

At 25, Asensio is no longer a prospect, so any shield against criticism has now dissipated. And now, Real Madrid fans are openly showing their disappointment with a player who was supposed to take a big step forward in an important season.

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The extent of the injuries

Every team suffers through injuries, but Real Madrid have suffered more than most this season. Some injuries are not surprising, such as the ones to Eden Hazard, who struggled to stay healthy for the majority of his first campaign in Madrid. Dani Carvajal is another star player with a history of injuries.

But Fede Valverde, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos, Rodrygo Goes, Marcelo, Lucas Vazquez, Alvaro Odriozola, and Eder Militao have all missed significant time with injuries. The ones to Benzema, Ramos, and Rodrygo have been particularly damaging to Madrid. It’s a miracle Real managed to win matches without Benzema, and in years past, they would have been toast without Ramos.

Credit to Madrid for their resiliency this season. They do not make excuses for injuries, nor do they give up in the face of adversity. They are still in the title race despite these ailments, and that shows you the character of this side. Even so, it is a surprise to see just how much this club has been decimated by misfortune. “Sanitas FC” has reared its head before, but this is to another level.

Nacho standing out as a top CB

Nacho Fernandez has always been a nice utility man to have, and he is a true Madridista who has breathed the club since his childhood. But I don’t think many fans expected him to play this well, especially when filling in for Ramos.

Real Madrid somehow did not miss a beat without their captain, and that means Nacho should receive a high degree of praise from Madridistas. His composure, energy, and reading of the game were sublime, and he was able to step up and do some of the things Ramos does that help keep Los Blancos ticking.

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Eder Militao is a talented young player, but it is no surprise to see that Nacho has claimed the No. 3 center back job after Raphael Varane and Ramos. He even started alongside them in a back three against Elche on Matchday 27. Nacho has been a rare, positive surprise for Real Madrid.