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Returning to Real Madrid as both one of the clubs greatest players and managers, Zinedine Zidane’s 2nd tenure with Los Blancos was supposed to be very different.
Having been hampered with the meddling hands of the club’s upper hierarchy (namely Florentino Perez) in his initial tenure, a failed Julen Lopetegui experiment seemed to have gifted Zidane a free reign of the clubs development and transfer affairs.
Things however have not quite gone to plan for the World Cup winner.
Hampered by the ghosts of his three consecutive Champions League triumphs, not to mention the departing Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane has struggled in moulding the team in his image.
Whilst the club sit just 2 points behind rivals Barcelona in La Liga, a recent drop in form and continued fireworks with club president Perez may see ‘Zizou’ seek employment elsewhere come the season end if reports are to be believed.
It was just at the beginning of the month the club was celebrating a hard fought Atletico Madrid in the league. Talisman Karim Benzema scoring the only goal of the game, helping the side stretch their La Liga lead to to six points. The club were in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey to boot.
Recent defeats against Real Sociedad and Levante however have shown alarming cracks in the clubs season. Added to that, Eden Hazard is now likely to miss the remaining campaign after viewers winced watching the former Chelsea man fractured his ankle watching the weekends football live stream against Levante.
This week Real face both Manchester City in the Champions League and Barcelona in La Liga. Whilst the side undoubtedly has the talent and leadership to bounce back, the club are clearly lacking confidence.
A problem since club legend Ronaldo’s departure, finding the back of the net has been a continuing problem for Zidane. Hardly known for scintillating football during his tenure, the Frenchman has leaned heavily on fellow countryman Benzema to fill the void.
Recently the forwards goals have dried up. An overall haul of 2 goals in his last 12 matches reflects badly on the side, it doesn’t seem that under studies Luka Jovic and Eder Militao are going to chip in any time soon either.
No doubt Zidane understands his sides issues. Unable to trust in attacking options such as Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale, Madrid will likely opt to strangle both City and Barca with a restrictive defensive style.
As unimaginative it will seem to supporters, few will back the club to go toe-to-toe with some of Europe’s best attacking talent this week. A 1st leg against City will be damage limitation, the following La Liga match against their nearest rivals is an undeniable must win.
At least they can be comforted by the fact that Barcelona face their own internal struggles. They can only hope Lionel Messi is down-trodden about the whole Abidal affair, the rest of us know he’s quite likely to show the world why you can’t keep a good man down.