One of the key things to remember about the biggest football clubs in the world is that a team can field only 11 players at a time. This seems obvious, but it means a couple of things. For one, it could mean that great players are spending time on the bench and have to adjust. It also means that to succeed, many great players are not only able to thrive in a tactical plan that caters to their own individual strengths, but also that they have a varied enough skill set to adjust when the plan is built around others. Versatility is key.
These adjustments are constantly taking place at a club like Real Madrid, and new manager Carlo Ancelotti has done a masterful job of managing the abundance of talent that he has at his disposal this season. A domestic league win against Elche over the weekend makes Real Madrid unbeaten in its past 26 matches, and this group is closing in on the record 34-game unbeaten streak set in the club’s 1988-89 campaign. That team went on to win both the Copa del Rey and La Liga, while the current Real Madrid team is following a similar path and is in strong contention for the Copa del Rey, La Liga and UEFA Champions League crowns.
The latter competition continues this week with a round of 16 matchup against Schalke 04, and is followed by a critical domestic derby on Saturday against Atletico Madrid that could have La Liga title implications. Beyond that, Real Madrid faces rival Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final in mid-April. Although both of this week’s matches will be tough tests, Real Madrid has shown this season that it has the makeup to navigate its domestic league and various tournaments.
Here’s a look at keys to Real Madrid’s treble pursuit, including Ancelotti’s formation versatility, the effectiveness of key midfielders and forwards and whether Los Blancos can tighten up their defensive vulnerabilities.