“Zidane needs to realize that Real Madrid play better when they are in an attacking mode. What would a pragmatic approach give Zidane against the average teams one cannot understand! One of the best clubs in the history of football should come out all guns blazing on the pitch”

 

On paper, it was dubbed as the clash where the La Liga Champions were expected to dominate and win without breaking enough sweat. But in the end, it turned out to be another hard-fought victory for the Royal Whites. Three times in a row, Real had to work really harder to script a breakthrough, and when the pressure mounts, the victory comes as a sigh of relief.

But this should not have been the scenario. Because, against the lower-ranked sides, you exhibit the best to boost your confidence and when you start sweating against such teams, it does not do anything good for your confidence and against the better opponents, it takes time to get into your groove, but until then the opponents would start steamrolling you.

The football fans and critics are well aware of the rotation policy Zinedine Zidane. He would experiment with various formats and players to chalk out the best combination, but the experimentation should have been over by last season.  He has the players to deliver and to increase their decisiveness; they are needed to be played together more often so that they can gel well and build that understanding like Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich.

But Zidane remains stick to his plans and surely, as one of the finest managers in the history of club football, he knows better than us. But the fans have their say as well. They don’t wish to see Real Madrid struggle like this.

Zidane started with Luka Jovic and Karim Benzema up front with Isco forming the tip of the diamond-shaped midfield instead of Martin Odegaard.  In the midfield, Luka Modric partnered with Casemiro and Fede Valverde. Odriozola and Marcelo joined the wing-backs. Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, and Rodrygo Goes were not the starters yet again.

Roberto made an instinctive stop to keep Real Madrid at bay in the 10th minute, springing to his right to turn Valverde’s cushioned volley around the post. Jovic helped craft that chance, but soon he squandered a huge opportunity of his own as he inexplicably missed the target when found in front of the goal by Valverde.

Jovic was wasteful again 10 minutes before half-time, lashing past the left-hand post following a smart Luka Modric touch.

Then Jovic saw a header saved by Roberto after the restart, with Casemiro slamming the rebound against the crossbar, before a subsequent chance for Shon Weissman – who was denied by Thibaut Courtois.

With the game becoming tighter and tighter, Zidane was forced to inject offensiveness.

Jovic and Isco were substituted to make the way for Asensio and Vinicius Junior.

Vini took the place where Jovic was playing and broke the deadlock.

No sooner had Asensio took the pitch, immediately he took full control over the ball. He cut back inside from the right and broke down the opponent’s resistance. Every time he dropped his shoulder and carried the ball centrally, the awaiting defenders would be caught on a fake-shot, which got Valladolid to budge.

One such scrambling, but incisive and effective move led to a deflection on which Vinicius finished calmly to give Real the lead.

Thibaut Courtois had to be alert to parry away a wayward Raul Garcia cross, yet Madrid might have added to their lead in the closing stages as Modric exposed Roberto’s poor positioning but struck the base of the upright.

Courtois had a wonderful game and in each match his hard work is evident. He pulled off five saves in all, with three of them coming at crucial ventures, most notably a fine stop from Weissman at 0-0.

Jovic put up another frustrating display and he has failed to score in the last 10 starts for Real Madrid and has scored just twice in all competitions for Madrid but had three chances to improve that tally here. Only one of his trios of efforts hit the target and he was replaced after 58 minutes.

Jovic has his fan base, but one cannot escape from the reality that along with Eden Hazard, Jovic has failed to cut a satisfactory figure. Clearly, the Los Blancos cannot afford such liabilities for long and needs to think practically because, for the sake of such fruitless players, the good ones are being denied of opportunities.

Moreover, Zidane needs to realize that Real Madrid play better when they are in an attacking mode.

What would a pragmatic approach give Zidane against the average teams one cannot understand!

One of the best clubs in the history of football should come out all guns blazing on the pitch.