After 2 losses, Madrid reeling before trip to Barcelona

Ferland Mendy in action against Shakhtar Donetsk’s Manor Solomon as Real Madrid coachZinedine Zidane looks on during their match on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 October 2020

After 2 losses, Madrid reeling before trip to Barcelona

BARCELON, Spain: After being humbled by a recently promoted club and a Ukrainian side playing with reserves, Real Madrid face  a trip to Camp Nou.

Barcelona host  Madrid on Saturday in the first clasico under new coach Ronald Koeman. And even though Barcelona are undergoing a rebuilding process after they ended last season without a trophy, Madrid come  to the clash with even more doubts.

Madrid have been outplayed at home by the modest Cadiz and a Shakhtar Donetsk that was without several starters due to a coronavirus outbreak among the squad.

In both losses, Madrid were sluggish and disorganized in defense, leaving opponents time and space to successfully launch counterattacks. Barcelona’s attack of Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho and the young legs of Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincao and Ousmane Dembele will have taken notice.

Madrid were stunned 1-0 last Saturday by a Cadiz packed with several players who spent their careers in the second division until last month. During that loss, coach Zinedine Zidane said he would not have been surprised if Madrid had gone into halftime down by two or three goals.

That is exactly what happened on Wednesday when Shakhtar won 3-2 in their Champions League opener after a Madrid backline fell apart without Sergio Ramos, who was resting after hurting his left knee against Cadiz.

Madrid hope  to have their  captain back against Barcelona.

Zidane has tried to absorb the blame for the embarrassing defeats.

“I’m responsible. As the first half was negative for my side, it means I did something wrong,” Zidane said after the loss to Shakhtar.

“I feel for the players because they have helped me win a lot of things. It was a bad game and they don’t deserve it. But that’s football. You have to keep going and think that if today is gray, tomorrow will be sunny.”

But his squad is under pressure, both veterans and newcomers.

Against Shakhtar, Raphael Varane should have been its defensive leader with Ramos out. But Varane showed the same fragile defending that was behind his two errors that led to goals in Madrid’s exit to Manchester City in the Champions League in August.

Caught behind a Shakhtar player, Varane’s lunge to poke away the ball put it into his own net, making it 2-0.

Marcelo and Eder Militao were unable to stop goals from Tetê in the 29th minute and Manor Solomon in the 42nd.

Down 3-0 at halftime, Luka Modric and Vinícius Júnior pulled two goals back, but with half an hour remaining the team could not culminate the comeback.

“When we don’t play well under pressure, everyone suffers. We found it difficult at the back,” Varane said. “It’s a difficult time for the team, but we’ve got a very important game (Barcelona) and we’re focused on winning.”

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

Updated 3 min 35 sec ago

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

  • Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving from mid-December
  • But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews

SYDNEY: The Australian Open will likely be delayed by one to two weeks, officials said Wednesday, as talks continue over staging the tournament in Melbourne, which has only recently emerged from months of coronavirus lockdown.
A delay for a week or two to the first Grand Slam of the year, scheduled to begin on January 18, was now “most likely,” said Martin Pakula, the Sports Minister of the Victoria State government.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay,” Pakula said.
The “very complex negotiations” were still under way but he remained confident it would go ahead in the early part of 2021.
For eight months, Australia has virtually closed off from the rest of the world, with a blanket ban on non-residents entering the country and citizens strongly advised against all foreign travel.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving in Australia from mid-December so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before playing traditional warm-up events.
But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews, who reportedly will not allow players to arrive before January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments the start of the Open.
Still under discussion is whether players will be able to train or compete during quarantine.
It comes as Grand Slam winner Andy Murray called for all players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when it becomes available.
“I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport — providing everything has proved to be safe, clinical trials and everything have been done and there are not any significant side-effects,” Murray said.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Nadal said it was an unprecedented situation and urged patience from players.
“That is difficult for everyone,” he said at the ATP Finals in London last week.
“We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”