Real Madrid just finished off the UEFA Cup and European Supercup champs FC Zenit St. Petersburg, 2-1. An own goal by Zenit and a 35th-minute goal by Ruud van Nistelrooy proved to be the difference. Now, with half of the Champions League teams through 2 games, Real Madrid is the only one that has a 100% result (or as they say it in America, they've won both their games). Man U, Villareal and Arsenal were also winners today, which was very important for all of them to bounce back from their draws in the first set of round-robin matches.
Real Madrid has looked inconsistent at times so far this season in all competitions. This was based on a slew of injuries to many of their defenders, the sale of out-of-favor Robinho, and the loss of Wesley Sneijder to a knee injury. However, the acquisition of Rafael Van der Vaart has been a great one, as he has really worked his way into the rotation. Ruud and Raul are both playing excellent, and Guti has been great as well. One player that has proven to live up to the hype is Ruben de la Red, a player that has spent a long time in the Real Madrid system. He was on loan last season, but at the end of the season, right before Euro '08, Real Madrid brought him back to make regular first-team appearances, and he hasn't disappointed.
What has disappointed is the erratic play of the back line and (Saint) Iker Casillas. Casillas, in my mind, is the best goalkeeper in the world without question, but he hasn't played like it so far. He has been human the first month or so. He has, however, locked down during the big competitions like the Champions League, but he also needs help. Injuries to the back line has yielded a lot of turnover from match to match. The 4 players that start one game may not even be available the next. That has led to a lot of miscommunication and not enough rhythm from the defenders. What has to happen is for those players to heal and get better so that they can recapture the flow that has eluded them thus far. On offense, the impending return of Sneijder will really help their options on set pieces and with balls from the wings into the 18-yard box. He will also get the #10 shirt that opened up when Robinho left, and in my mind, he is worth the #10.
Real Madrid is still a point out of first in the La Liga table (Villareal holds the top spot), so they are still doing well. Once the rest of the injured team members come back into fitness, look out. The youngsters have received playing time with the veterans, and once everyone's back, I think the team will really start to gel, and the consistency that is Los Blancos will return.