Zidane still on shaky ground

Zidane still on shaky ground

MADRID • Real Madrid have released the pressure on Zinedine Zidane temporarily, with the next task to fix their dismal start in the Champions League.

Real’s 3-1 win over Barcelona in the Clasico on Saturday swerved a third consecutive defeat after losses to Cadiz in La Liga and Shakhtar Donetsk.

“There are always bad spells,” said Sergio Ramos. “Hopefully, this one has only lasted a week.”

But the effects of the 3-2 implosion against Shakhtar, who had 10 first-team players missing due to coronavirus infections, still linger, with Real sitting bottom of Group B in the Champions League.

A victory away to Borussia Monchengladbach today would limit the damage, especially after the Bundesliga outfit’s opening 2-2 draw with Serie A side Inter Milan which kept the group tight.

Zidane knows a convincing performance in Germany should suspend talk of a crisis and dispel doubts about his future, at least for now.

Even for Real, two defeats seemed ammunition for the uncertainty around their coach that followed. In the aftermath of their win at the Nou Camp, Spanish radio station Onda Cero said that former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino had been sounded out by the Spanish giants with a view towards potentially replacing Zidane.

Other reports in the Spanish press also discussed the Argentinian, who spent five years with the Premier League club before being sacked last year.

But Zidane has brushed off the speculation, saying: “I have always been critical of myself, it is what drives you to improve.

“After a loss, as a coach, most of the criticism comes at me and that’s normal.”

The quickness to question the Frenchman has become a regular feature of his tenure, even while the players sing his praises and the trophies have poured in.

 EPA-EFEReal coach Zinedine Zidane has insisted that criticism is normal as his side aim for a win today in Germany to climb out of the bottom of Group B in the Champions League. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

It was only three months ago Real were winning their second La Liga title of his three full seasons in charge, to go with three triumphs in the Champions League and 11 trophies in total.

Success, though, has never been enough for Zidane, who began his second stint in March last year.

His reputation as a man-manager has always been a backhanded compliment, even if getting the best out of good players is surely the key to being the coach of a team like Real.

Inconsistency continues to plague his side. When they stormed to the title during the 11-game run-in last season, it was with no other distractions and a trophy in sight.

With a less immediate prize and against lesser opponents, the suspicion is those players Zidane trusts completely become unreliable.

“I have won many things with these players,” he said. “I will always be with them until the end.”

Zidane routinely sidesteps the issue of his future, which creates a nervousness after he resigned so unexpectedly after winning the Champions League in 2018.

That contributes to the sense of short-termism, an ageing team managed by a coach who seemingly refuses to look beyond the end of the week.

Anything but a win today and the cycle of instability begins again.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MONCHENGLADBACH V REAL MADRID

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