Real Madrid struggle when Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all play, says Guillem Balague
Last Updated: 07/03/17 7:17am
Real Madrid are living proof that sometimes you actually can have too much of a good thing, says Guillem Balague.
When forced to shoehorn the likes of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo into their starting XI they tend to struggle both in terms of scoring and conceding.
In his latest column, the Sky Sports Spanish football expert gives his take on a revitalised Barcelona, problems for Real Madrid with their top stars and the new man for the Nou Camp.
He also answers your Twitter questions, including rumours of a midfield target for Barcelona...
Real's Galactico problem
It's interesting that when the BBC play - Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo - particularly in games against lesser opposition, the team struggles more in terms of both scoring and conceding. They score more and concede less when the BBC are not playing.
Their best formation is a 4-2-3-1 that leaves one, or even two, of the BBC out. When they play with just the one striker, they score more than when they have the BBC playing.
With the 4-2-3-1 they have conceded none and scored three against both Sevilla and Atletico Madrid earlier in the season. When the big guns are available, Zinedine Zidane will play the BBC, and they will work hard enough and switch on defensively to make a difference.
Better with or without the BBC?
|BBC all start||At least one missing|
|1.2||Average goals against||1|
|2.3||Points per game||2.4|
For example, without Ronaldo, Real have won nine of their 10 games. When Ronaldo and Benzema start together, Real score 2.5 goals per game compared with 2.9 when they do not start together.
They also win more (81.8 per cent to 64.3 per cent), concede less (1 to 1.1 goals against per game) and earn more points (2.6 to 2.1 points per gape) when Benzema and Ronaldo do not start together.
In terms of the BBC, without at least one of the star trio, Real concede less (1 to 1.2 goals per game) and have a much higher win percentage (73.7 to 66.7) compared to when all three are starting.
It's a problem for Zidane. He of course will give them the opportunity to lead the attack in the big games, but he must know that in other games he may have to rest one or two. It seemed at the beginning of the season he was brave enough to do that, but at the moment he is not doing so. When they are fit, all three play.
The focal point...
|Benzema and Ronaldo start||Benzema or Ronaldo absent|
|2.5||Goals for per game||2.9|
|1.1||Goals against per game||1|
|2.1||Points per game||2.6|
Ronaldo missed out at the weekend, and it was just Benzema up front, and that worked like a dream. He is one of the top forwards in the world, and when he leads the attack he does everything; assisting, scoring, even defending.
Best Messi + Best Neymar = any possibility
Messi has now scored five goals in four games. He's gone from not getting near the goal against Paris Saint-Germain last month, to the look on his face when he scored the last-minute penalty against Leganes, and then to the hugely important winning goal against Atletico Madrid and scoring in the last two games.
The change of formation that Luis Enrique has introduced, the 3-4-3 while attacking , and 4-4-2 when defending, is working.
Placing Messi as the furthest forward midfielder in the 3-4-3, diamond-shaped midfield, has worked.
The feeling in the Camp Nou, both inside and outside of the changing room has changed ideas about what could happen against PSG. I have a feeling PSG have at least one goal in them, but the plan for Barcelona is to score two in the first half, and at 2-0 that would give them a chance in the second half. Coinciding with the best Messi of the season, Barcelona are currently a team that gets the ball from front to back better, with a bit more control and ability to recover. 4-4-2 defending works because it allows Messi not to track back, but others do, and they kill the space much better.
It's not just Messi, it also helps Neymar, who is in the best form of the season, and, in fact, says this is the best football he has ever played. Interesting, as he has scored half the goals he had scored at this stage last season.
The best Neymar, with the best Messi, makes anything possible against PSG, but for me Unai Emery has produced a side where everyone attacks and everybody defends as well. I don't see Barca coming back, but it will be a fantastic game.
Ahmed Shehzad @Ahmed8299222 - Valverde is favourite to coach Barca but according to you who will be better for Barca? #askguillem
(Ernesto) Valverde is favourite. Barcelona have told their players that the coach they are looking for should ideally be a former Barca player. That points to Valverde and Sevilla coach, Jorge Sampaoli will only be an alternative if Valverde fails.
Who will be better for Barca? The new manager not only has to play a certain style but also has to understand the club. In terms of style, I think it is Sampaoli, but he would have to convince Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez to play an aggressive style of football that I don't feel comes naturally to them.
Sampaoli, as we have shown in the touchscreen pieces we have been doing on Revista, certainly fits the style, but Valverde fits the profile of the club more. He is certainly a coach that plays offensively and likes to dominate games. But at Bilbao, Valencia, Espanyol and Villarreal he did not have the quality of players to work with that he would have at Barcelona, so he will need to make the step up. With Barcelona you have be seen to be moving forward, you have to win every game.
He is no stranger to this pressure which he tackled successfully during his time with Greek side Olympiakos where he changed the style and where he is still regarded as a God. I certainly think he is capable of doing the same at Barcelona.
Peter Hunter @NCFCHunty - Which team would you back in the El Clasico coming up?
It's not coming up for a while yet, but the dynamics suggest Real Madrid have got doubts. In the Clasico they will play BBC if everybody is fit, and Barcelona have seemed to hit peak form at the right time. Also, if they get knocked out of the Champions League they will only have to play one game a week.
Ahmed Shehzad @Ahmed8299222 - Verrrati Coming to Barca. Any truth in that rumour ? #askguillem
(Marco) Verratti is definitely on Barcelona's radar and certainly the kind of midfield player they want. Even Xavi himself has said he would be an excellent Barca player, and I fully agree. But his valuation is thought to be around 60m euros and I don't think they would be looking to spend that amount of money on him, however much they rate him, but that said he is definitely a target.
The Salford Devil @Wroenaldo7 - Why has Barcelona's best form come after Luis announced he's leaving them? #askguillem
I think there was a release of tension in the club, the team, and even from Luis Enrique himself, from the moment he said he was leaving. He has also changed the formation, which has helped as well. It has reactivated the side, and he has been brave in leaving (Andres) Iniesta out in some games, because Iniesta is not at his best.
Everyone feels that after the depression of the 4-0 defeat by PSG, Barca are now giving more. The key to this change in formation during the games is obviously Messi, who plays in yet another role, but also with Sergi Roberto, who becomes a midfielder when they attack, and a defender when they defend. He feels more protected as does (Sergio) Busquets, who as a result has also raised his level.
Sam King @SamKyng - will Sevilla continue chasing the title or do you think they will slowly drop off?
Whatever the result this evening against Alaves, I think they will fight for the title. Just as Barcelona could gain an advantage in the league if they are knocked out of the Champions League, likewise with Sevilla if Leicester manage to beat them.
Real Madrid's lack of clear footballing idea works against them in games they are not hyped-up for, as seen in their match against Las Palmas. Sevilla will take advantage of that.
Armir Qurdina @armirq_lfc - Which one from Isco, J.Rodriguez and Kovacic has more chance of moving to PL during the summer? #AskGuillem
Isco has demanded a lot more money, but this is perceived by the club as an excuse for him to leave, a way for him to be able to say the club did not want to renew his deal. It looks like he is happy to leave although Real will look to keep him because Zidane wants him to stay. A lot more to come on this one. Watch this space.
James is still not at his best. He's given more in the last three weeks or so, but if a big offer comes in he could go, be it to Italy, France or England.
(Mateo) Kovacic is somebody they really like at Real so for the time being they have no intention of selling him.