Although flying high in the Primera Division, a point ahead of Barcelona, undefeated and with 25 goals scored, the most telling statistic is that Los Blancos also have the best defence, with just five goals conceded.
Sami Khedira’s introduction the side has been swift and significant, and alongside Xabi Alonso, has provided a solid foundation Jose Mourinho has been able to build the attacking lines from. Initially placed next to Alonso in the central-midfield two of Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 system, the two players have found a more flexible working relationship that is getting the best out of the both of them.
Alonso, although the more creative of the two, predominantly bases himself directly in front of the back four and thrives in that area of the pitch to start attacking moves from. Khedira meanwhile is the supporting midfielder, and after a patchy opening few games where he and Alonso were seen to be stepping on each other’s toes, has now based himself further up in the spine of the midfield as a direct link between midfield and attack. The German international is able to protect Alonso and maintain Real’s high-pressing game that Mourinho has worked hard to introduce into the side.
The emphasis under the Portuguese Coach to press from the front-line has been key to the recent transformation from a side registering 0-0 draws at Mallorca and Levante to consecutive six-goal demolitions at the Bernabeu. The 23-year-old arrived at the club in the summer for €10m and joked that Mourinho took just three minutes to convince the youngster to sign for the Spanish runners-up.
“[The club] is both professional and pleasant , with a great atmosphere. The fact I played against some of the stars of Spain [during the World Cup] helped prepare me mentally. Then when I arrived, I found a great family.”
Khedira is in Italy preparing with the squad for the fourth game of Group G in the Champions League where a win over Milan would see the team qualify for the knockout stages. Khedira is aware of where he believes Real, with all their attacking talent, need to perform to win the European Cup: “If we can keep a clean sheet in Milan, we will win the game. The teams that have been successful in recent Champions League seasons have conceded fewer goals. A good defence wins titles.”
Already a favourite with the Coach and the fans, Khedira is part of the reason that in 2010/11, Real are beginning to be taken as seriously for their ability to defend as for their ability to attack.