In Barcelona, they wish for so-called substance – tiki-taka, fluid and beautiful football even if you don’t win, just play to win hearts. It sounds more like a bloody joker, whose ambitions are less. If he could put a smile on the faces of people without giving them the ultimate joy, then his work is done. We actually witness such jokers in the streets – a total fluff from inside when the return is zero.

Someone like Zinedine Zidane, the manager of Real Madrid, can demand the ideal combination of everything – he can ensure fluidity, compactness and both of them, according to the demand of the situation.  Zidane knows very well what Real Madrid and her fans wish for – the ultimate joy – the joy of winning big titles on big stages and not lose like a joker when the stakes are higher.

After a rough start since his return to Santiago Bernabeu, Zidane has instilled faith and confidence among Los Blancos and gradually, the best club in the world has started impress. Zidane does not care about the comfort of an individual club-legend, who always fails to handle pressure, nor does he bother to alter his tactics even at the cost of star players. The Real Madrid of Zidane is about playing for the team rather than creating a team on the basis of just one player.

On Sunday, the boys of Zidane tightened the screw on Barcelona after defeating Real Valladolid and went top of the points table. Real Madrid was all about composure last night rather than Cryuff school of football. One cannot say that Real were impressive, but at times they looked dull. Still, they are grinding the results.  And winning matters in football. Certainly, winning hearts are for jokers. It is not the target of a champion. And that is where Real Madrid is the best – they focus on winning. Entertainment is for the kids.

Quique Setien is planning to inject the fluid football at Camp Nou – at the potential risk of jeopardizing the team’s prospects in the three main competitions this season, while Real Madrid are emphasizing on winning – even if Real have to be dull and defensive, it does not matter much.

The night at Jose Zorilla was cold and chilling. Playing your natural game would never be that easy. Both teams’ progress had been scratchy. Real had the last laugh as they know how to achieve such.

Zidane opted for a 5-man midfield with Nacho filling in for the suspended Dani Carvajal. Rodrygo Goes started on the wide areas with Karim Benzema alone at the top. The first-half had been less eventful until Casemiro headed the visitors ahead. But VAR ruled that goal out.

In the second-half, Rodrygo started to shine – consistently cut into the box on the counter, which kept Valladolid back at bay. An Isco free-kick threatened the Valladolid keeper, while a Benzema header missed narrowly. Without a doubt, Benzema was well aided by his partner – Rodrygo.

Real controlled the play at midfield – Casemiro was tough to overcome as usual and allowed Luka Modric and Toni Kroos to break the lines and ensure authority. But the match was all about keeping things tight, which was not enough to fetch full points. Zidane shifted to 4-3-3 when Isco was substituted for Lucas Vazquez. Compactness was overtaken by more movements at the center of the park.

Vazquez won a corner and with twelve minutes remaining, Nacho Fernandez scored from a header. Then it was all about securing the goal rather than getting adventurous. VAR’s stickler rules on offside ruled out a Valladolid equalizer at stoppage time before that Mendy had to stop Sergi Guardiola to overcome a sure goal.

It was a close-shave, but no damage was done.

Zidane praised his defence after Valladolid failed to register a shot on target but said more creativity is required to ensure struggling opponents are beaten more convincingly.

For us, nothing changes,” Zidane said. “We are happy with the victory, the work done having fought until the end, but nothing changes. There are 17 games left and we will continue fighting until the end.

“I don’t want to talk about being champions because there is still a lot left to play. It changes nothing to be leaders, they are three important points but nothing more.

“There are a lot of league games left and it will be difficult for all teams, including us.”

Real bagged full points and are now at the top. But still, they are not secure enough. Zidane wishes to improve more.