Real Madrid endured an unspectacular start to the season, with the upheaval of making the transition to new manager Carlo Ancelotti’s style and integrating new faces into the starting line-up perhaps showing itself in their first two fixtures.
An unconvincing performance on the opening day at home against Betis nonetheless provided a memorable debut goal for Isco, who rose to head in a Marcelo cross late on to secure a 2-1 success.
Nor did Los Blancos manage to win more comfortably in their next fixture, grinding out a 1-0 away victory against Granada in which Karim Benzema’s goal was the saving grace on a day when they struggled to find inspiration.
But Real seemed to shake off some of their demons in a 3-1 win against Fernando Llorente’s former club, Athletic Bilbao, who were unable to match the most confident, flowing football seen yet from Los Blancos in 2013/14.
Isco continued to prove himself as a worthwhile summer acquisition with a double to add to Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike, making it three wins out of three for Ancelotti’s men.
Next up were Villarreal, who initially went in front through Cani at El Madrigal before Gareth Bale turned in a cross for his first goal for the club.
Ronaldo put Real ahead thanks to a fortuitous ricochet, but Bale’s former Tottenham team-mate Giovanni Dos Santos equalised and in the end neither side was able to pull away from the other at the top of the La Liga table.
Los Blancos then followed their 6-1 midweek demolition of Galatasaray with another high-scoring game against Getafe. It finished 4-1 at the Bernabeu, with Real putting La Liga’s bottom-placed side to the sword despite an injury to Gareth Bale during the pre-match warm-up. The goals came from Isco, Pepe and a brace from Ronaldo.
Real then travelled to Elche for the first time in 24 years, but came up against unexpectedly resilient opposition at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
Los Blancos took the lead through Ronaldo before the newly-promoted outfit drew level in the 90th minute thanks to a wonderful team-move capped off by Richmond Boakye, who is on loan from Juventus. But just when Elche though they had stolen a point, Ronaldo netted again in the six minute of injury time to seal a dramatic win.
Ancelotti’s men had good momentum, then, going into the important derby against close runners Atletico Madrid, but it wasn’t Real’s day at the Bernabeu.
Atletico have gone from strength to strength over the past few seasons, and after a historic victory against Real Madrid to win the Copa del Rey back in May they defeated their inter-city rivals in their own back yard once again.
Los Blancos have got back to winning ways in their most recent games, though, with a hard-fought 3-2 away win against Levante courtesy of Ronaldo’s 94th minute winner and a more leisurely 2-0 victory at home against Malaga that sees them snapping at the heels of Atletico and Barcelona in third place.
Real Madrid began the competition in style with an imperious 6-1 opening win away at Galatasaray.
The Turks, who beat Real 3-2 at home in the Champions League quarter-finals last season, started confidently at the Turk Telecom Arena and enjoyed better territory and possession overall in the first half.
But Isco’s goal opened the floodgates for Benzema’s double and Ronaldo’s hat-trick in what turned out to be a rout. Fatih Terim’s men did get a goal, but it would surely have been little consolation.
Real’s next opponents were FC Copenhagen, who made the trip to the Bernabeu. Ronaldo opened the scoring with an unstoppable header, and went on to make it two with another one after half-time.
Not to be outdone, Angel Di Maria sealed a dominant victory with a brace of his own, netting from range and then slotting home with Copenhagen defenders floundering to ensure Carlo Ancelotti’s men won comfortably.
Real are currently on maximum points, then, in Group B, and possess the tournament’s top scorer in Ronaldo: the Portuguese forward’s five goals so far are two more than Lionel Messi and Kostas Mitroglu have managed.
Under Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid placed heavy emphasis on playing counter-attacking football, and with Gareth Bale’s pace now added to that of players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria, they will be even quicker on the break this season.
The fact that 13 of Real’s 28 goals in all competitions have been scored by Ronaldo proves his status as the side’s biggest goalscoring threat. The second most prolific player has been Isco with five goals, while Benzema and Di Maria are level behind him on three.
After beginning his career as a wide player, Ronaldo now performs a much more central striker’s role, and Real have lined up in a standard 4-4-2 with the Portuguese alongside Benzema on a number of occasions.
However, with Gareth Bale yet to start regularly because of injury troubles, Ancelotti’s formation could well change in order to integrate Real’s new signing soon.
Di Maria has provided the most assists, setting up six goals for his team-mates. He has also shown himself to be dangerous from long range with two goals from impressive distance this season.