Real Madrid analysis: Thibaut Courtois' strange error, Eden Hazard's injury, Man City and Barcelona await

Ben Hayward
REUTERS

Real Madrid's sudden dip in form has arrived at an inopportune moment.

Zinedine Zidane's side lost 1-0 at Levante on Saturday night as Jose Luis Morales hit a late goal at the Ciutat de Valencia and Los Blancos have now dropped five points in their last two LaLiga games.

That has allowed Barcelona to take a two-point advantage at the top of the table ahead of next weekend's Clasico clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, when just a week ago it had looked like Madrid would head into the famous fixture in pole position.

"I'm not worried at all," Zidane said. "It's football. We have to think about moving forward – with energy and enthusiasm."

Hazard injury a huge blow for Madrid

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Real Madrid's first defeat since October in LaLiga was bad enough, but perhaps the worst news of all was Eden Hazard's injury. The Belgian limped off in the second half, in only his second game back, and Zidane admitted: "It doesn't look good."

And the Frenchman's fears were confirmed on Sunday following tests carried out on the player. "He has been diagnosed with a fracture to his right distal fibula," Madrid said in a statement on their website.

Los Blancos did not give an estimate as to how long he will be out, but the 29-year-old attacker is expected to miss the next two months, having already been out for three after his initial ankle injury in November.

Hazard has only made 15 appearances since his summer move from Chelsea and has scored just one goal. The move, so far, has not been a success.

What was Courtois doing for the goal?

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Thibaut Courtois was a hero the last time Real Madrid played in Valencia, when he went up for a corner deep into added time and his header led to a dramatic late equaliser at Mestalla in December.

But back in the city on Saturday, this time at Levante, the Belgian goalkeeper was on the losing side and should have done much better with the goal as he made a bizarre attempt at saving Morales' shot.

A long pass was played over the top for the winger to chase and the 32-year-old, with little else on, let the ball bounce and hit a fierce left-footed shot which beat Courtois and found its way into the top corner.

Courtois was in a decent position, but inexplicably lowered his arms and also ducked slightly at a key moment. Had he raised them, he surely could have made the save. Very strange.

Benzema dip in form is alarming

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Karim Benzema was perhaps Real Madrid's best player earlier in the season, but the French forward has dipped dramatically in recent weeks and he missed three clear chances against Levante.

After a prolific start to the campaiign, the goals have dried up for the 32-year-old and he has now gone four games without scoring.

In total, Benzema has netted only twice for Los Blancos in 2020 and one of those came against Segunda side Real Zaragoza. In a team with few high-scoring players, his goals are vital and his sudden drought is therefore a big concern.

Mendy return will improve the team

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Ferland Mendy was left ouf of the starting line-up at the Ciutat de Valencia to avoid a possible suspension for next Sunday's Clasico clash at home to Barcelona.

The French defender was just one booking away from a ban and spent the 90 minutes on the bench as Marcelo started for Zidane's side against Levante.

Marcelo was not at fault for the goal (it came on the opposite flank), but was erratic in attack again and is a long way from his brilliant best. He also conditions Madrid's defence, leaving Los Blancos with three at the back for most of the game.

Against Manchester City and Barcelona, Mendy should be back to make Madrid more solid and also more balanced.

A huge week lies ahead

(AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid are no longer top of LaLiga and over the next week, Los Blancos play two matches which will go some way to defining their season – both at home and in Europe.

Zidane's side host Manchester City in the first leg of their last-16 tie in the Champions League on Wednesday night and then face Barcelona in LaLiga on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Failure to beat the Premier League champions will leave their European hopes hanging in the balance, while defeat to Barca would see the Catalans move five clear at the top of the table.

"We know the importance of the next two games," Zidane sad. "We have to win." But on current form, that is perhaps easier said than done.