Will muscle memory be enough for Real Madrid this season?

Having come from behind to lead 2-1 Real Madrid appeared to be coasting to another three points to re-establish their advantage over Barcelona at the top of La Liga. Celta Vigo made the most of a late lapse in concentration from Zinedine Zidane’s side to snatch a point at the Santiago Bernabeu, boosting their hopes of avoiding relegation.

At the other end of the table, though, these two dropped points may prove costly for Real Madrid. The second Clasico of the season is now looming on the horizon, with Barcelona set to visit the Spanish capital on March 1. With just a single point between the two rivals that fixture could have a real impact on the Spanish title race.

Real Madrid have gone unbeaten in the league since losing to Real Mallorca at the end of October. Zidane’s side have built up a head of steam. Until the weekend they looked like champions-elect, especially with Barcelona struggling to adapt under a new manager and injuries crippling them.

Los Blancos were winning games through muscle memory. While their form has been impressive in a binary sense, they have won so many games by the odd goal here and there. Against Celta Vigo, the good fortune that Real Madrid have benefited from for months finally ran dry.

Of course, this good luck has become a trademark of Zidane’s stewardship of Real Madrid. The Frenchman is quite clearly a good coach, but it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint his individual strengths. This Real Madrid team is still a work-in-progress and that has shone through at various points over the course of the season.

“I don’t think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats,” Zidane said after the draw against Celta Vigo, defending his selection of Marcelo “I’m happy with everyone for how they play and when they play. After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it’s not very good.”

It’s fortunate for Real Madrid that Barcelona are just as vulnerable as they are this season. The next few weeks and months will go a long way to determining how both teams’ campaigns will finish. Zidane must make sure his team learns from what happened against Celta Vigo on Sunday.

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