Real Madrid’s loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League puts the pressure on Zinedine Zidane. Los Blancos were outclassed by the Ukrainian side in the first half. And although they worked hard to almost level the game, Madrid’s opening Champions League loss falls on Zinedine Zidane.
Real Madrid’s Loss Puts Pressure on Zinedine Zidane
Disastrous First Half For Zidane
In what can only be described as a stunning start, Real Madrid trailed Shakhtar Donestk 3-0 at halftime of their first Champions League game of the season. Shakhtar were missing thirteen first-team players who tested positive for COVID-19, but that didn’t stop the Ukrainian side from ripping Real Madrid to shreds.
It was simply a case of desire in the first half. In the opening ten minutes, Shakhtar were sitting carefully and not looking to overextend themselves. They had plenty of reason to relax. The Madrid front three of Luka Jovic, Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio is hardly the daunting task most associate with playing Real Madrid.
And as Real failed to create going forward, they’re thwarted attempts became Shakhtar’s fuel. The Ukrainian side punished the Spanish side on the counter. They hit the space vacated by Marcelo and attacked Eder Militao. Marcelo has been outstanding for Madrid over the years. But at this point in his career, he is a counter-attack waiting to happen.
The vacated space behind the Brazilian is a constant problem for Madrid when he plays. It’s part of the reason why Ferland Mendy has become the starting left-back. But injuries forced Marcelo into the starting eleven and Shakhtar, and particularly Tete, was the beneficiary.
Real Madrid’s Second Half Comeback
But the 3-0 halftime score was hardly the end of the game. Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane had to make some changes, and those started with bringing Karim Benzema on at halftime. Within moments of the change, it was easy to see Real Madrid playing like a better team.
And within 15 minutes of the restart, everything had changed. As they attacked more, the danger was clear, and after that 15 minutes, both Luka Modric and second substitute Vinicius Jr had hit the back of the net. Modric’s goal was a screamer from outside the box and Vinicius had a lovely goal as well.
From there, the race was on. Shakhtar sat deep and tried to counter Real Madrid while Madrid tried to break down their defence. The Ukrainians had many chances. Three or four times in the second half they got in behind Marcelo with a chance to score. Even their coach was furious with his teams’ lack of composure in the final third.
For a moment they’re missed chances came back to haunt them. With one minute left in stoppage time, Shakhtar fell asleep on a corner and allowed Frederico Valverde to sneak a shot into the back of the net. But, luckily for them, Vinicius was standing in front of the keeper for obvious obstruction. The goal was ruled out for offside and the game ended at in a Madrid loss.
From a Madrid point of view, there are all kinds of things to take away from this game, starting with Marcelo. The Brazilian is more than a liability for Real Madrid at this point in his career. He doesn’t get back with any speed at all, and Madrid have to rely on miracle efforts of other players to stave off the danger his space creates.
But he was hardly the only issue. Both Valverde and Casemiro struggled to shield their centre-backs from any Shakhtar attacks. And despite his age and goal in the game, Modric looked like a corpse for much of the evening. He struggled so much with the space Marcelo left on his side of midfield that any help was seen as a surprise.
However, with El Clasico coming up on Saturday, Zidane will have to make changes. Not having Sergio Ramos for this game was a big miss, and his fitness for Saturday is still a mystery. But that should have nothing to do with Marcelo finding his seat on the bench. That would move Mendy over to the left, and Nacho Fernandez off the bench to play right-back.
That won’t change the fact that Real Madrid is riding back to back losses into El Clasico. They’ve scored seven goals in six games this season and struggled in all of them. They can still beat Barcelona but there certainly isn’t evidence that they can outscore them.