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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Misfiring Ronaldo, lack of squad depth and fatigue: What is going wrong at Real Madrid?

Reigning Primera Liga champions find themselves eight points behind leaders and fierce rivals Barcelona after a surprise loss against Girona on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo, and his Real Madrid teammates during Suunday's Primera Liga defeat to Girona. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo
Cristiano Ronaldo, and his Real Madrid teammates during Suunday's Primera Liga defeat to Girona. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo

Following a shock 2-1 defeat to newly-promoted Girona, Real Madrid's Primera Liga title challenge is fading fast as they trail leaders Barcelona by eight points.

European champions Madrid have never overturned that big a deficit to win the Primera Liga and are also four points back on a revitalised Valencia.

Just a few months on from winning four trophies, what has gone wrong at Real Madrid?

Squad shortages

As rampant inflation engulfed the transfer market, Madrid were praised for their prudence in the summer when they made a €75 million euro (Dh320m) profit.

However, in letting Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez, Pepe and Danilo go, Madrid are now being accused of resting on their laurels.

The club continued their policy of recruiting the best young talent in Spain in Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez, whilst Jesus Vallejo, Marcos Llorente and Borja Mayoral returned from loan spells.

That focus on the future may work out in the long-term, but Madrid's lack of depth at centre-back, right-back and centre-forward has been exposed - three positions where Morata, Pepe and Danilo bolstered a deep squad last season.

Lack of late shows

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. Albert Gea / Reuters
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. Albert Gea / Reuters

Flat form from Madrid through the Autumn months is nothing new. Indeed there is little difference in the level of their performances from this time last season.

Madrid often cruise through the early part of the campaign to save their energies for the business end of the season.

However, unlike last year, Madrid aren't bailing themselves out of poor displays with late goals to keep themselves in the title race.

Nine times Zinedine Zidane's men salvaged points in the last 10 minutes of Primera Liga games last season.

In the current campaign, only Cristiano Ronaldo's winner at Getafe has snatched victory late on, while they conceded in the 93rd minute themselves to lose at home to Real Betis last month.

Tiredness tells

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. Juan Medina / Reuters
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. Juan Medina / Reuters

That lack of late rallies is undoubtedly related to fatigue after a relentless 12 months.

On top of winning four trophies earlier in the year, Madrid also flew to Japan to win the Club World Cup last December and embarked on a gruelling four-match pre-season tour across the United States.

Success breeds complacency

Sergio Ramos, second right, celebrates with Isco after his goal against Girona. Juan Medina / Rueters
Sergio Ramos, second right, celebrates with Isco after his goal against Girona. Juan Medina / Rueters

Zidane couldn't be accused of taking Girona lightly, naming his strongest available team, including nine of the side that started June's Uefa Champions League final.

However, Madrid took their foot off the gas after Isco fired them into an early lead in Catalonia.

"We lacked a bit of attitude, we allowed them to come back very easily," Isco said.

"We need to play better and work harder," midfielder Casemiro said. "Madrid are always obliged to win."

Misfiring Ronaldo

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Juan Medina / Reuters
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Juan Medina / Reuters

In his previous eight seasons, Ronaldo's goal tally after 10 Primera Liga games read: 5, 11, 10, 11, 8, 17, 8 and 5.

Entering November, Ronaldo has just one league goal this season, in part caused by missing the first four Liga games of the campaign through suspension.

Yet, even since his return, one goal from a total of 40 shots in five games means the Portuguese - recently crowned as Fifa's player of the year for 2017 - has the lowest shot conversation rate in Europe's top five leagues.

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