Real Madrid and manager Zinedine Zidane completed their 2016 calendar year with yet another trophy, capturing the FIFA Club World Cup title on Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Japanese side Kashima Antlers. Even more impressive is extending their amazing unbeaten run to 37 matches across all competitions.
Currently leading La Liga and preparing for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Los Galacticos continue to find different ways of bringing positive results.
Real Madrid has been able to utterly dominate the opposition, as they displayed in a 6-1 victory over Real Betis in October. But even when Madrid are not at their best, determination and passion have kept their club-record unbeaten streak alive. A 3-2 comeback win over Deportivo de La Coruna thanks to a late Sergio Ramos goal was a fantastic display of this attribute.
A star-studded roster with some of the best footballers in the world is a major part of the equation, but Zidane has brought intangibles and smart player management as well.
We look at the key reasons the unbeaten streak continues and take a look at where it may end in 2017.
A stellar midfield
Real Madrid’s attack certainly gains the headlines with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema leading the front-line. But the heart of the team’s success this season lies in their extremely talented midfield.
Toni Kroos has been exceptional and leads the club with seven assists in league play. His positioning and accurate passing help to open up the opposing defense.
Luka Modric’s creative abilities and quality touch on the ball has driven defenders mad in 2016. His thunderous free-kicks make him a threat nearly anywhere on the field.
Isco, Casemiro, and Mateo Kovacic each bring unique strengths to the side as well. Colombian international James Rodriguez has not been used often and may be on the move in the January transfer window. The fact that he appears disposable is a testament to the incredible midfield capabilities for Real Madrid.
A defense featuring Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane also give the club an advantage in clearing out the opposition’s scoring chances at the other end.
With Gareth Bale out injured, an even greater expectation has come about for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. But CR7 has been more than ready for the challenge. His hat-trick against Kashima last weekend sealed Real Madrid’ Club World Cup victory.
Along with Benzema and Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, Ronaldo and the Real Madrid attack are often overwhelming for even the best European sides.
Where does the unbeaten streak come to an end?
Real Madrid return from the winter break on Saturday, January 7th against last-place Granada. A difficult visit to Sevilla comes the following week and could present issues against a team in fine form.
The club is likely to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals over Napoli, but could certainly face a dangerous side in the next round.
Intense moments await in April, as Real host city rivals Atletico Madrid (4/9) and the season’s second El Clasico encounter with Barcelona (4/23). Both matches will likely have a significant influence on the league title.
37 matches and counting. Real Madrid’s incredible unbeaten streak comes down to talented players and excellent management. Both aspects have the potential to keep the run going well into the new year.