Real Madrid remained unbeaten at home throughout the 2019-20 season, a record they last achieved in the 2012-13 season.
Indian fans were able to witness Real Madrid wrapping up the 2019-20 La Liga season with one match to spare as they beat Villarreal 2-1 to clinch their 34th Spanish league title on Friday.
Real’s first crown in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era saw the side losing just thrice in the entire season and drawing eight times as Zinedine Zidane proved his mettle yet again by delivering Real Madrid their first title since 2017.
“The Champions League is the Champions League but La Liga makes me happier because La Liga is what it’s all about. This is a tremendous feeling because what these players have done is incredible. I am lost for words because I am too emotional.” - Zinedine Zidane
The journey, however, wasn’t smooth for the capital giants with archrivals Barcelona leading the points table for most of the season.
In fact, before the coronavirus pandemic halted La Liga’s season mid-way, Real Madrid had dropped points in 11 games with eight draws and three losses.
However, while the Catalans were unable to carry their momentum since the league restart - dropping points against Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid - the Sergio Ramos-inspired Real Madrid carved out hard-fought wins (10 in a row) and pulled off a classic comeback that will be remembered for ages.
“The title is a reward for work, consistency and balance. What we have done has great value, despite what they may say. Work, when you do it right, is rewarded. There is a lot of merit in winning these 10 games in a row. It was an atypical season, we had to win everything, we did not depend on ourselves at the start. The margin of error did not exist in our heads and we have shown it.” - Sergio Ramos
Here are Real Madrid's highlights of the season:
Real Madrid 2-0 FC Barcelona
Having lost four previous El Clasicos on-the-trot and tasting a home defeat to Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid needed inspiration when Barcelona were knocking at the door on March 2.
Having stopped Lionel Messi at Camp Nou in the return fixture, Real Madrid believed they could go all the way. And after a close first-half, young Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz scored in the second to give Real Madrid a massive win.
More than anything, the win had changed Los Blancos’ mentality as Zidane had little work to do to keep his side motivated for the remaining season, despite the forced COVID-19 break. Real Madrid had leapfrogged Barcelona after the win to sit atop the table with 12 games remaining.
Real Madrid 1-0 Getafe
A high-flying Getafe side had been a tough nut to crack this season, and they were up for the task on their trip to Santiago Bernabeu on July 3.
With Barcelona being held to a 2-2 draw by Atletico Madrid at Nou Camp, Real Madrid knew they had the best chance to stretch their lead at the top of the table to four points. However, after a goalless first 45 minutes, Zidane’s men knew it was not going to be easy.
However, they had captain Sergio Ramos for inspiration who scored from the spot after Dani Carvajal was fouled inside the box. One goal was enough to take Real Madrid four points ahead of the rest on the table.
Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Real Madrid
Travelling to Athletic's San Mames is one of the toughest fixtures in La Liga and Real Madrid’s winning run was largely expected to be hindered, when they travelled on July 5 – just two days after a gruelling match against Getafe.
The return fixture at Santiago Bernabeu last December had seen Real Madrid hit the woodwork thrice before settling for a 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao, and the Lions made life difficult for Real Madrid this time as well.
However, Zidane’s men fended off the challenge to emerge victorious with a narrow 1-0 win as Sergio Ramos converted from the spot, yet again, to help his side lead by six points atop the table.
As poster boy Cristiano Ronaldo was key to Real Madrid for the most part of the last decade, Los Blancos needed a new leader after the Portuguese international left for Juventus.
And although the club invested in Vinicius Junior and Eden Hazard to keep their offence decorated, when the time came, everyone looked up to skipper Sergio Ramos for inspiration.
Apart from keeping Real Madrid’s defence rock solid, the Spanish skipper was needed to convert penalties on crucial occasions – and Ramos did that without clinical precision.
His penalties against Getafe and Athletic Bilbao were both match-winners and helped Real Madrid gain an insurmountable lead over Barcelona. Sergio Ramos has a whopping 10 goals so far - five of which have come since the restart of La Liga in June.
Standing up to the talent of Lionel Messi was a challenge for Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo gone and their squad in transition.
However, in the hours of need, it was the old guard – Karim Benzema – who put his hands up with his prolific goal-scoring abilities. The burly French forward overcame the legendary Ferenc Puskas’ record in June when Real Madrid upstaged Valencia 3-0 at home, and there has been no looking back since.
Karim Benzema (23 goals) now trails Lionel Messi by just two goals in the race for the Golden Boot and has easily been Real Madrid’s star up front with Eden Hazard still getting acquainted with the rigours of La Liga.
Among all the players who have stepped up to clinch Real Madrid the title this season, Thibaut Courtois remains right at the top – especially after the hostile beginning that he had to his Real Madrid career.
From being booed off by his own fans and briefly losing his place to second choice Alphonso Areola, Thibaut Courtois now runs the possibility of becoming the second Real Madrid goalkeeper to win La Liga’s Zamara trophy after Iker Casillas won it 12 years ago.
In 34 appearances, the Belgian custodian has 18 clean sheets and leads goal-stoppers Jan Oblak, Marc Ter Stegen and David Soria on the list. Courtois has been the wall behind Real Madrid’s defence that has conceded only 23 goals so far, this season.