Real Madrid: Ranking Best and Worst Merengues Players for April – Bleacher Report

Real Madrid recovered from their Clasico defeat to Barcelona in late March to record six consecutive league victories during April.

Los Merengues also progressed to the final four of the Champions League at the expense of local rivals Atletico Madrid.

It was generally a good month for Carlo Ancelotti and his side. Per Soccerway, they scored 25 goals across their eight matches in all competitions—including nine against Granada alone—while conceding just four.

Here we will look at Madrid’s three best and three worst players during April. It is primarily based on opinions formed from watching the club’s matches throughout the month. Statistics and graphical representations of individual performances will also be called upon when necessary.

All appearance data referenced in this slideshow is as per Soccerway.

It has been a successful April for Madrid but one in which Isco has seen his role within the team diminished in comparison to earlier in the campaign.

During February and March, with both James Rodriguez and Luka Modric out injured, Isco established himself as one of the club’s most important players.

But his performances have suffered a downturn since Rodriguez returned to the side at the start of the month. The swift and decisive play of the Colombian has made Isco’s more considered style look pedestrian in comparison.

The 23-year-old has struggled to find a role for himself in the side. When both were fit and available, Rodriguez was selected ahead of him for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Atletico Madrid.

No-one can doubt Isco’s talent. And he produced an excellent display in the 3-0 win over Eibar when Rodriguez was missing through suspension. But his other, less impressive, performances throughout April suggest that in this moment, for his current Madrid side, Rodriguez is the better midfield fit.

It is perhaps a little unfair to say that Jese Rodriguez has performed badly this month. Disappointing would probably be the better word to describe his displays.

The 22-year-old has been involved in 21 of the 30 matches Madrid have played since his return from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of action between March and December of last year. But he has reportedly grown frustrated at his lack of starts and of being called upon off the bench too late on to make a significant impression according to Alvaro de la Rosa of AS.

The good form of Javier Hernandez has prevented him from taking full advantage of the absences through injury of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. It is clear that he needs regular minutes to find his rhythm but he has unfortunately failed to produce sufficiently strong performances when called upon to make that a reality.

He was handed his first start of the season at home to Eibar and responded with a late, well-taken goal in a 3-0 victory. His overall performance was, however, not particularly impressive. He appeared reluctant to take on his man and too often took the safe option of a backwards pass.

He had the opposite problem against Almeria on Wednesday. He consistently looked to drive past his marker but had little success in doing so. And aside from one neat reverse pass to release Alvaro Arbeloa down the right, he again made little real impact.

Asier Illarramendi has been involved in five of Madrid’s six league matches this month but did not play a part in either leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid.

In the decisive second leg of that tie, Carlo Ancelotti preferred to move Sergio Ramos forward into midfield rather than employ Illarramendi alongside Toni Kroos in the centre of the park.

The Italian’s reasoning was made clear by Illarramendi’s performances in his subsequent two league starts, against Celta Vigo and Almeria.

In both matches opposition players were easily able to find space between Madrid’s midfield and defence in the zone that Illarramendi should have been screening.

He did make a few good tackles in various sectors in Vigo, as illustrated by FourFourTwo, but he failed to make any sort of impression against Almeria on Wednesday. Per, he made just one interception and zero tackles over the course of his 65 minutes on the pitch.

His indecisiveness in possession also drew the wrath of the Madrid crowd. Per Lucas Navarrete of SB Nation, he has loudly whistled when he was substituted for Lucas Silva just past the hour mark.

Illarramendi has not become a bad player overnight but the truth is that in his appearances this season, and particularly those during the month of April, he has not looked Madrid quality.

He is in need of a change of scenery to get his career back on track.

Sergio Ramos started seven of Madrid’s eight matches during April and produced a string of good displays to help his side to an undefeated month.

His excellent performances in two different roles across the two legs of the Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid showcased him at his most impressive.

In the first leg, he and Raphael Varane did a superb job of holding down the centre of defence in the face of concerted pressure from their hosts during the second half. Per WhoScored, Ramos made seven tackles, three interceptions and 11 clearances over the course of the match in a very solid display.

Ramos was moved forward into midfield for the second leg and again performed very well, this time in an unfamiliar role. He did a solid job of breaking up play in the centre of the park and used the ball well when won, moving it forward swiftly and accurately to those ahead of him.

“He sacrificed himself for the team,” Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards, as per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC. “I can have an idea, but the player needs to be convinced to help the team. He did it very well.”

In defence or elsewhere, Ramos continues to be a strong performer and an on-field leader for Ancelotti’s side.

Cristiano Ronaldo began April with a spectacular five-goal salvo in the 9-1 win over Granada.

His scoring rate dropped a little over the rest of the month but he continued to play an important role in the team dynamic. Particularly so once Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale went down with injuries.

Goals did follow against Rayo Vallecano, Eibar and Malaga, but it was assists and link play that stood out.

It was of course Ronaldo who laid on Javier Hernandez’s late winner in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final success over Atletico. He also provided assists in the league wins over Rayo, Malaga and Celta Vigo.

The 30-year-old has also showed a willingness to adapt his game to account for the absence of Benzema. His role has been that of a penalty-area poacher for much of the campaign. But in recent weeks he has regularly dropped deeper to receive the ball with his back to goal and provide first-time layoffs into the path of oncoming team-mates.

James Rodriguez has proved to be a highly capable foil. In unison, they have constructed the swift and sharp counter-attacks that have seen Madrid regain some of their pre-Christmas scoring form over the last month or so.

James Rodriguez has been in superb form since his return from injury at the start of the month.

He notched two assists on his first start in the 9-1 win over Granada and then scored in the 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano a few days later.

He was then preferred to Isco for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid.

His inclusion came just a few days after Diego Torres of El Pais (in Spanish) had reported that many in the Madrid squad, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and coach Carlo Ancelotti, prefer the Colombian’s swift and decisive movement of the ball over Isco’s more considered style.

Rodriguez was the outstanding player in the second leg of the Atletico tie. And he played a part in the late winner, exchanging passes with Ronaldo to release the Portuguese forward into the area to set up Javier Hernandez to finish.

He also scored in the league wins over Malaga and Celta Vigo, before notching a truly superb opening goal against Almeria on Wednesday.

The Andalusian side had impressed during the first half and Madrid were struggling to find a way to goal. But then Rodriguez stepped up to smash home a venomous swerving volley from the edge of the area. It was a strike that set his side on their way to an eventually comfortable 3-0 victory.

Good performances and crucial interventions have made Rodriguez our Madrid player of the month for April.
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