Zinedine Zidane has never lost at the Nou Camp as a coach but his Real Madrid side are short on confidence and lack inspiration… defeat at Barcelona could lead to calls for his departure with Mauricio Pochettino and Raul waiting in the wings
- Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has not lost as a manager at the Nou Camp
- His side go into Saturday’s El Clasico lacking in confidence and inspriation
- They were beaten by Shakhtar Donetsk after losing to LaLiga minnows Cadiz
- Zidane is without Eden Hazard and Martin Odegaard for the crucial clash
- Mauricio Pochettino and Raul have been linked with taking over if he is sacked
‘Every season has its highs and lows’ said Zinedine Zidane in his press conference on Friday. He has been a Real Madrid player and coach long enough to know that there is no low quite like a defeat to Barcelona low, and that some coaches never recover from it.
The Real Madrid manager has never lost at the Nou Camp as a coach. He needs to keep that record to ensure the whispers over his future don’t become calls for the club to turn to youth team coach Raul or even Mauricio Pochettino.
The fact that both would be relatively easy to hire – Raul might need convincing he is ready, and Pochettino would need to be satisfied in terms of contract – makes Zidane’s situation that little bit more precarious.
Zinedine Zidane has never lost at the Nou Camp as a coach but is under pressure this weekend
Mauricio Pochettino (L) and Raul (R) have both been linked with taking over if Zidane is sacked
Real go into Saturday’s El Clasico off the back of two defeats by Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk
He won a league title last July and that clearly goes for him, but the club once sacked Vicente del Bosque days after he won the league so it will not necessarily be enough.
‘They say that I’m playing for my future,’ but they said that a year ago and also in my first spell in charge,’ said Zidane. He’s right. Twice before he has had to stare into the abyss. In his first time in charge he looked hapless after a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid but ended up winning a third straight Champions League. Then last year when he had come back to the job he took his side to Mallorca where the eventually relegated side beat them 1-0. He ended up winning the league.
He is capable of tweaking things tactically and touching the nerves of his player to get a response from them. He can also ex-communicate players, making his mind up to never trust in certain individuals again. James Rodriguez – now pulling up trees with Everton – was one of those who underperformed against Atletico in Zidane’s first spell and was never really forgiven.
Luka Jovic is one of several players who is struggling under Zidane after a poor start to season
It remains to be seen if anyone is to be shunned after the last two defeats. Nacho, Eder Militao, Marcelo, Luka Jovic, and Rodrigo are all candidates. But the startling truth is Zidane does not have the luxury of options he once had. He needs all his players after a summer in which no one new arrived, and before a January window in which no one new is likely to arrive.
He will probably welcome back Sergio Ramos on Saturday and that will immediately improve a defence that currently is not great with him but is far worse without him. Ferland Mendy, Raphael Varane and Nacho are likely to complete the back four.
It’s then expected that he picks four midfielders with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Fede Valverde playing behind Karim Benzema and Vinicius in attack. On paper, that’s a flat team lacking in inspiration. It looks short on creative spark, the touch of unpredictable genius that Madrid teams have always had.
In part that is not Zidane’s fault. He is not to blame for the financial crisis that has seen the club back away from making any signings. It’s not his fault that Eden Hazard and Martin Odegaard are both injured in the long-term.
Captain Sergio Ramos is set to return from injury which will shore up Real’s defensive frailties
Eden Hazard and Martin Odegaard’s injuries mean Real’s team are lacking a creative spark
Odegaard’s tendonitis problem looks like keeping him out until after the next international break and Hazard’s comeback outlook is no brighter. Those two might have produced some of the flair this team so desperately needs.
Without the attacking acumen they must at least defend better and that means forwards closing down opposing defences and midfielders not allowing rival attacks to make such easy progress across the middle of the pitch as both Cadiz and Shakhtar have done in the last seven days.
A win against Ronald Koeman’s side, after two terrible performances, would be typical of Madrid’s customary resilience. But something about the manner of the last two defeats have suggested this is not a customary Madrid. ‘We lacked confidence,’ said Zidane after the midweek defeat. That summed-up the way they have started the season and the way they cannot afford to run out at the Nou Camp.
A victory over Ronald Koeman (above) would be typical of Real’s customary resilience