Zidane shelves league intentions as Madrid shift focus to Europe

Zidane made several changes ahead of Tuesday’s Group A game away at Galatasaray. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Zidane shelves league intentions as Madrid shift focus to Europe

  • Real Madrid coach made several changes ahead of Tuesday’s Group A game

MADRID: Zinedine Zidane said in April Real Madrid would prioritize La Liga over the Champions League this season and their defeat to Real Mallorca on Saturday suggests they may not have the squad to go far in both.

“For us next year, the league must be our No. 1 priority,” Zidane said.

“It’s the longest competition, it’s the one that cannot be missed, and I’m going to put that in the heads of my players.”

Yet Zidane made several changes ahead of Tuesday’s Group A game away at Galatasaray and those who came in failed to impressed, with a blunt performance against Mallorca revealing familiar failings up front and causing Madrid to slip to their first league defeat of the campaign.

Some of the adjustments were enforced as Eden Hazard was absent following the birth of his fourth child on Friday while Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were all nursing injuries of varying severity.

Others were seemingly chosen as Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal were rested, along with Fede Valverde, who had brought much-needed energy into the midfield before the international break.

Bale’s calf injury is believed to be minor but was considered too much of a risk and will also miss the trip to Turkey along with Ballon d’Or winner Modric.

Heavy rotation points to a belief in the utmost importance of the game against Galatasaray and a recognition from Zidane that Madrid cannot afford another misstep in Europe.

“The problem is we have to show every three days that we are good,” Zidane said on Saturday.

“That is our difficulty and that is what we do not do. We must have consistency. We have to have more life in our game if we want to do important things this year.”

They sit bottom of the group, with just one point from their opening two games and the prospect of failing to make the knock-out stages for the first time in the Champions League still faint, but a possibility nonetheless.

It also suggests for all the good intentions about consistency in La Liga and wrestling back some of the domination enjoyed by Barcelona over the last decade, for Real Madrid the Champions League perhaps never plays second fiddle.

After all, it was in the Champions League that Zidane forged his reputation as a coach, three triumphs in a row almost eradicating from memory his more disappointing period in the domestic league and cups.

Zidane might have weighed up that there is time and games to recuperate in La Liga that do not exist in Europe but losing to Mallorca does not come without a cost.

After five games unbeaten, doubts have returned about his team and the spotlight is back on their Frenchman.

Perhaps he hoped for more from those that came in. Isco, Luka Jovic and Vinicius Junior were all taken off in the second half on Saturday and while Vinicus is young and Jovic recently signed, it remains to be seen how long it might take to regain Zidane’s trust.

Alvaro Odriozola, in for Carvajal at right-back, was at fault for the goal and then sent off.

“Injuries are part of football,” Zidane said.

“There were other players and we had to do better.”

When Madrid won the league under Zidane in 2017, he successfully rotated in games against lesser sides but, despite around 300 million euros ($300 million) spent last summer, his squad might not have the same depth.

Galatasaray have won only four of their opening eight Super Lig games and have not reached the Champions League last 16 since 2014.

But Madrid cannot be complacent, having lost three of their last four visits to the Turkish giants.

Zidane’s hopes of progress will be transformed with a victory but he might need his best players back to do it.


Bayern Munich with one hand on Bundesliga title after 1-0 win at Dortmund

Updated 26 May 2020

Bayern Munich with one hand on Bundesliga title after 1-0 win at Dortmund

  • Kimmich sent a perfectly-weighted chip over stranded keeper Roman Buerki

DORTMUND: Joshua Kimmich’s sweet first-half lob gave leaders Bayern Munich a 1-0 win at second-placed Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Tuesday to close in on the league title with a seven-point advantage over their rivals and six games left in the season.
Kimmich sent a perfectly-weighted chip over stranded keeper Roman Buerki in the 43rd minute as the champions landed a big win, at an empty stadium that normally seats 80,000 fans, in their quest for a record-extending eighth straight league crown.
Bayern, who have now won seven straight league matches, are on 64 points with Dortmund still on 57. RB Leipzig, who face Hertha Berlin on Wednesday, are third with 54.
The Bundesliga became the first major league to restart 10 days ago after a break of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with games played without supporters to reduce the risk of infection.
It all started well for hosts Dortmund, who were on a six-game winning streak going into the match, with teenage sensation Erling Haaland almost scoring in the opening seconds as Bayern’s Jerome Boateng had to clear the ball off the line.
The visitors gradually found their footing and had their own effort cleared off the line when Dortmund defender Lukasz Piszczek denied Serge Gnabry from five meters.
In a fluid and entertaining first half Norway international Haaland should have done better when he was sent through in the 33rd minute with Alphonso Davies stealing the ball away.
It was Kimmich’s delightful effort that settled the game when he spotted Buerki off his line and superbly chipped the ball from the edge of the box over the keeper.
Bayern stayed in control after the break and an injury meant Dortmund lost Haaland, who earlier had another effort deflected wide by Boateng’s elbow, with 18 minutes left.
Dortmund’s Mo Dahoud tried his luck from outside the box but visiting keeper Manuel Neuer, on his 400th league appearance, managed to preserve his clean sheet before team mate Robert Lewandowski hit the post in the 83rd for Bayern.