Real ponder bluntness in attack as City visit
MADRID – Two seasons after the departure of all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid are still struggling in front of goal and their lack of firepower has become a cause for concern ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Manchester City.
Real have made huge improvements since their disastrous first campaign without Ronaldo, with Zinedine Zidane solidifying their defence and creating a highly functional midfield since retaking the reins last March.
Zidane's side have the best defence in Spain, conceding 17 goals in 25 games, but that gain has been offset by a tame attack which has scored 16 goals fewer than La Liga leaders Barcelona.
This blunt attack has become a big talking point since Real drew 2-2 at home to struggling Celta Vigo and then lost at Levante last Saturday, turning their three-point lead over Barcelona in the Spanish standings to a two-point deficit.
"No-one had been talking about our lack of goals at any point this season, so it is opportunistic to start talking about it now," defender Sergio Ramos told a news conference ahead of their last-16 first leg game at home to City.
Real's problems in attack are well expressed in their list of goalscorers. Karim Benzema leads the way with 13 league strikes, with Ramos their second top scorer with five, followed by holding midfielder Casemiro who has three.
Eden Hazard was seen as the heir to Ronaldo when he joined from Chelsea last year for 100 million euros, but injuries have limited the Belgian to 15 appearances with Real, in which he has scored one goal.
He is ruled out for the next two months after fracturing his right ankle against Levante, his second game since returning from a three-month layoff from another ankle injury.
There was also hope that Karim Benzema might end his role as a supporting actor in Madrid's attack and take over from Ronaldo, particularly after he made a flying start to this campaign.
But the Frenchman's form has since nosedived - he has scored only two goals in his last 11 matches.
Gareth Bale meanwhile has been in and out of the team and not scored since September, while Brazilian wingers Rodrygo and Vinicius offer plenty of promise but little consistency.
The lack of a reliable goalscorer, however, does not worry Ramos, who has lifted four Champions League titles with Real and embodies the club's expertise in Europe's top competition, which they have won a record 13 times.
"This season if our attackers haven't scored then our defenders have, we have been creating lots of chances. We're doing many things right and I don't think we're lacking goals, we haven't all season," added the captain. "We are looking forward to playing and talking less. We have an ideal opportunity to make a real statement by winning this match."Reuters