Zinedine Zidane has never lost as a manager at the Camp Nou, a record that comes under the microscope on Saturday as Barcelona host the champions at a time when Real Madrid are reeling from a couple of shock defeats. The reversals – one each in La Liga and the Champions League – have prompted questions over whether Los Blancos can have another successful season.
A glaring statistic hits out at Real Madrid and their history. They may have the highest number of league titles and been continental champions 13 times, but they have only retained the La Liga once in the last 30 years. On paper at least, it looks too early in the race to make a call – one point off the top with a game in hand makes it seem like things aren’t that bad at Madrid. But their previous two results and how they’ve played in those matches are a cause for concern as they prepare to face a Barcelona team that has had its own set of issues.
The start of this season for Real Madrid has not been the best one. They have played six matches and won three, lost two and drawn once. In the post-match conference after the Champions League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk, Zidane accepted the blame for the loss that came despite the Ukrainian club missing 10 first-team regulars on the back of positive Covid tests.
“We lacked a bit of everything,” said Zidane. “Above all confidence, which is the most important thing… We know the situation we’re in. It’s our second bad game. Now we have to prepare for our next game. It’s clear that I’m responsible.”
There are some statistics that Zidane would be shaking his bald head over. The key one being Madrid, in their last two games, have taken 28 shots with only six on target – with only two resulting in goals. They have made 57 crosses in these two games and attempted 97 long balls. Against Cadiz, in particular, was a shocker as Madrid could only manage one shot on target, despite having 74 per cent possession and making close to 700 passes with an 85 per cent accuracy rate. Another stat that should hurt Madrid is how the goals have dried up. In their last 14 games, they have scored two or more only three times, a number that might not be the biggest confidence-booster as they head for the first El Clasico of the season.
These two defeats followed a similar script. Madrid have been slack despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession. They’ve relied on an overload of long balls and crosses with very little success to show for it.
Such is the pressure of being the Real Madrid manager that two losses and an upcoming El Clasico sets rumour- mongers about. French publication L’Equipe wrote that Zidane has been given a two-match lifeline to change course or get the sack. The head of a manager who has won a league title and three Champions Leagues is said to be on the chopping block of the most successful club in the world after just six games into the new season.
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