Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid - Part Two

In part one we discovered the tragic news that Cristiano Ronaldo has been sidelined for seven to nine months with cruciate ligament damage - to read this, click here. Now we'll take a look at how the team copes as the season progresses without the key man Ronaldo.

Life without Cristiano Ronaldo didn't get off to the best of starts as Real Madrid suffered a 2-1 defeat to Espanyol, but improved as we kicked off our Champions League campaign with victory in Greece. Now a run of winnable upcoming games spells an opportunity for us to get over the loss of our main man.

First up was a home clash with Granada, so I stuck with the same side that got the job done against Olympiakos. Things didn't start well, as we conceded to a nice far post finish by former Barcelona man Isaac Cuenca within five minutes. But the early goal inspired the Madrid troops to turn on the style, built around an inspired performance from Karim Benzema.

I've deployed the Frenchman in his natural false nine role and he started off slowly in the position, but came to life against Granada. All our attacks were going through the forward, as he completed eight key passes to setup goalscoring opportunities in addition to scoring himself to earn the man of the match award.

The trio in behind Benzema all excelled, in particular Isco who grabbed a goal and an assist, while Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez both got on the scoresheet. The full-backs also impressed, Danilo grabbing one assist in his first start - as a left back, as Marcelo was suspended - and Dani Carvajal claiming two assists from an impressive 19 crosses.

This match gave me fresh hope during Ronaldo's enforced absence, so what followed next was a real shock to the system. We headed up to the Basque region to face 18th placed Athletic Bilbao and inexplicably suffered an embarrassing 3-1 defeat. We hit the woodwork three times and had far too many shots off target, but I have no idea what went wrong - other than having been FM'd.

To add insult to injury, the in-form Isco picked up a knock and was ruled out for three weeks with a twisted ankle. Brilliant. But on the plus side, Gabriel Barbosa scored his first goal for the club with a late consolation.

The less said about Bilbao the better, but the injury to Isco necessitated a change. I moved Bale over to the left and handed Barbosa a first Real Madrid start on the right wing for a home clash with sixth-placed Malaga - which should have been a tougher test.

On the contrary, we came away with a 3-0 win, which could and should have been more dominant. Benzema opened the scoring and a James penalty and Casemiro header from a corner had us three up after 25 minutes, but in completely non-Madrid style we settled for that scoreline.

Following that victory we faced another home game, this time up against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League. Sticking with the same eleven delivered another three points, maintaining our 100% record in Europe. Toni Kroos whipped in two superb free-kicks that were put away by headers from Benzema and man-of-the-match Raphael Varane.

After eight games - six of which have been without Ronaldo - we sit third in La Liga and are joint top of our Champions League group, along with Juventus. Bale tops the scoring charts with five goals closely followed by Isco's four from six games, while Dani Carvajal is the leading assist maker with four - as well as racking up two red cards in just six appearances.

We've won all four of our home games, scoring 15 goals in the process, but the away form is a cause for concern even this early in the season. Despite victories over Sporting and Olympiakos, away defeats to Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao may necessitate a tactical tweak for future away games - most likely popping Casemiro in the holding role in front of the defence.

Join me next time in the quest for glory in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, with a tricky trip to local rivals Atletico Madrid, a possible Champions League group decider against Juventus and a couple of winnable home fixtures.



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Football Manager 2017 Blog: Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid - Part Two
Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid - Part Two
A Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid continue their hunt for glory in La Liga and the Champions League
Football Manager 2017 Blog
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