The last time they led at the halfway stage, Los Blancos went on to claim the title.
After the first 18 Matchdays in LaLiga Santander, Real Madrid are top of the table, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side having already guaranteed that they’ll be in first place during the winter break, and when the first half of the season is completed. They haven’t even needed to play a 19th game to guarantee their status as winter champions for the current season.
The Italian has built an impressive team, one that had won 10 matches in a row across all competitions before their Sunday night 0-0 draw with Cádiz CF. After their first 18 matches, Real Madrid have 13 victories, four draws and just one defeat, having scored 39 goals while conceding only 15. This means they have 43 points, with Sevilla FC the only team who could keep that rate during their first 18 games (38 points), although Real Madrid currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Andalusian side.
This is the 36th time that Real Madrid will be top of the table upon completion of the first half of the season. On 24 of the previous occasions, they have gone on to win that year’s championship, most recently doing so when they were top halfway through the 2016/17 campaign and also at the end of that season.
The warning of 2014/15
Only once in the past 20 seasons have Real Madrid been the winter champion and then failed to take that year’s league title. That was in 2014/15, the last year of current coach Ancelotti’s previous spell at the Bernabéu.
Then, Real Madrid had 48 points at halfway, compared to the 44 of FC Barcelona, but injuries and fatigue in the second half of the campaign saw Barça end up claiming the championship with 94 points compared to their rivals’ 92.
Having experienced that disappointment firsthand, Ancelotti is hoping to learn lessons from 2014/15 as Real Madrid look to protect their current lead. Discussing this in a recent press conference, the veteran coach said: “We’re favourites right now, you can say that. But we’re just focusing on the next matches.
“A mental drop-off can be costly, so we have to continue. When I was here before, we won 22 matches in a row [in 2014/15], but the second half of the season didn’t go well. I don’t forget that. I’m happy now, but I know there could be slip-ups in the second half of the season. Maybe the previous experience can help me to avoid mistakes this time.”
The keys to Real Madrid’s strong start
There are several factors behind Real Madrid’s excellent first half of 2021/22, most notably the evolution of Vini Jr. The Brazilian is the third top scorer in LaLiga Santander right now with 10 goals, which is more than he’d scored in his previous three seasons combined. His progress has been key, especially with the youngster scoring important goals like the 87th-minute winner against Sevilla FC.
Also, key to Real Madrid’s success has been the fact that they have the league’s top scorer Karim Benzema. Currently, on 13 goals, the Frenchman is on course to win what would be his first Pichichi trophy. His goals have come at important moments too, with seven of his strikes opening the scoring for his team.
In the middle, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić are as impressive as ever as they control each game, while Real Madrid’s new central defensive partnership of David Alaba and Éder Militão is working well, along with Thibaut Courtois, with Real Madrid boasting the third-best defensive record in the division.
It has been a successful start to the year and now, in the second half of 2021/22, Ancelotti and his players will look to turn the honour of being winter champions into some silverware.