They said he couldn’t do it without Cristiano Ronaldo. They said he was carried by the goals and performances of a world-class team. Yet, here Zinedine Zidane is, guiding the Real Madrid season to success.
The aforementioned squad has been stripped as a result of injuries this season, 53 to be exact, but that has not stopped the Madrid side’s resurgence.
Instead of collapsing in the face of an injury crisis, Zidane has stepped up to prove his tactical nous, not that it should have been questioned in the first place. In December, the title race looked all but over in La Liga, Atletico Madrid were far and away at the top, and Real Madrid and Barcelona were struggling.
A few slips from Diego Simeone’s side later and, it is Real Madrid who sit on top of the tree, however. Atletico’s mistakes helped, yes, but Zidane’s Real Madrid side have endured a much-needed resurgence.
People put Madrid’s resurgence down to a favourable run of fixtures. Yet, one week and a convincing defeat of Liverpool and a crucial win over Barcelona in the El Clasico later, and those doubters have gone into hiding.
The Real Madrid Season: Zidane’s Tactics Key
It has been a season-defining week: A week that could have seen one leg out of the Champions League and the title race all but over. Or, it could have been a week that saw one leg into the Champions League semi-finals and a place at the top of La Liga secured. Seven days later, and it is the latter that occurred.
The odds were stack against Madrid in the Liverpool game. The Reds had just defeated Arsenal 3-0: They looked back to their best, both offensively and defensively.
Most importantly, they looked a side ready for a big game. Madrid, in contrast, without Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, looked likely to be vulnerable. Many expected a difficult and defining night in the Real Madrid season.
Instead, Madrid took the script of Liverpool domination and tore it to pieces. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric took one look at the Liverpool press before laughing in the face of it. Real Madrid’s class prevailed as they came out 3-1 winners. Tactically, Zidane got it spot on.
With a midfield full of master-passers, he adapted Toni Kroos’ role to more of a deep-lying playmaker. That way, he could have all the freedom in the world to exploit Liverpool’s highline. And that, he did- playing Vinicius Junior in behind for the all-important opener.
Liverpool and Klopp were outclassed as Zidane took one foot into the next round.
Real Madrid Season: Double Still on
Football never fails to deliver entertainment. If you told fans at the back end of last year that Real Madrid are in an enviable position to pick up a double by the end of the season, they would have laughed in your face. Yet, here they are, with one foot in the final four of the Champions League and in pole position to win La Liga.
Zidane, in his most difficult season yet, has prevailed. In the face of an injury crisis, instead of collapsing, he has adapted. He has improved Real Madrid, improvised them into a side that no longer relies on individuals. Instead, they fall back on the collective talent of the squad itself. And that could define the Real Madrid season.
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