Has Zidane found winning equation at Real Madrid?
Zinedine Zidane had clearly been battling to settle on his first-choice Real Madrid XI this season, naming 12 distinctive line-ups in Los Blancos’ First 12 games of 2019/20.
In the 5-0 victory over Leganés on Wednesday, however, the Madrid lead coach finally named an unaltered side, placing his confidence in the team that had earned a vital, 1-0 Champions League succeed at Galatasaray last Tuesday.
In the two games, a team made out of Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Federico Valverde, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Rodrygo Goes, Karim Benzema, and Eden Hazard not only came away victory as well as allied that great outcome with a good performance.
Courtois keeping clean sheets
The pair of wins brought positive displays as well as clean sheets. Courtois had not managed a shut-out at the Bernabéu since a 3-0 defeat of Alavés back in February. The Belgian appears to have come back from his period out with acute gastroenteritis with renewed resolve. Against Leganés, he was exposed to the odd initial boo from the home fans, but, after a very good performance that brought three saves – the first a fine stop to deny Óscar Rodríguez – he turned the jeers into cheers.
Improvement from Marcelo
With Carvajal, Varane, and Ramos all clear picks in Madrid’s best defense, the only question marks have been over the left-back position. however, Zidane seems to have settled that debate. Having set his confidence in Marcelo in Turkey, he then kept him in his side a week later, and the Brazilian has responded with an upturn in form. He left the Leganés win with an 87% pass-completion rate, six ball recoveries and two shots on goals. Zidane seems unaffected by the club’s 48m-euro investment in Ferland Mendy, who has played only 270 minutes this term, though he has missed a month through injury.
Valverde turning out to be midfield fixture
In midfield, a generational handover seems to be taking place before our eyes: Luka Modric out, Valverde in. Zidane has consistently been a fan of Valverde’s and, having already made his faith in the midfielder plain last term, is this season doubling down on his responsibility to bringing him through. The 20-year-old’s work rate and strategic intelligence are what Zidane most values. “if he’s playing, at that point there’s a reason behind that,” he said this midweek. “He’s doing really well. I’m impressed by how strong and quick he is, not to mention brave: If he has to go for a ball, he goes for it with everything he has. In defense and attack.”
Against Leganés, Valverde was practically perfect with ball at feet, finishing 94% of his passes. With the youngster alongside Casemiro in the midfield, Madrid has the sort of balance that they have been painfully lacking in recent times.
Kroos back to his best
Kroos is back, and Real Madrid are benefiting significantly from the German’s return to form. Against Leganés, he was incredible on the ball – registering a 94% pass-completion rate – and dangerous in attack, getting two shots away and scoring Los Blancos’ second of the night with one of them. With three goals already to his name, he is well on course to surpass his most elevated take in a single season at Madrid: five, in 2017/18.
On top of that, the 29-year-old is putting a genuine shift when it comes to his defensive duties, having amassed 78 ball recoveries (one every 13 minutes) so far this campaign.
Rodrygo gaining his place in the side
Gareth Bale started the season looking sharp in attack and committed in defense, and offering the feeling that this could be a time of recovery for him. In any case, all that early good faith has scattered in the wake of his latest injury (despite Madrid not publicly clarifying the problem, it is believed to be another calf strain) and his controversial trip to London, with the club’s authorization, to meet his agent, Jonathan Barnett.
Bale’s absence has opened up a spot on the right that Rodrygo has so far made his own, ahead of Vinicius Júnior, in no small part because of the eye for goal he has illustrated. In only 133 minutes of LaLiga football, he already has two goals. With Zidane confirming that Rodrygo’s habitual left-wing space is saved for Hazard, the 18-year-old can only have strengthened his standing in the coach’s eyes by performing so well on the opposite flank, as well.
Benzema proceeding to impress
Zidane has consistently had huge faith in Benzema, even when he wasn’t repaying it on the field. These days, though, the French striker is defending every single minute he gets with goals, assists and an overall level of performance that Madrid has come to rely on. Against Leganés, he set up two goals and netted one himself, and together leads the LaLiga scoring charts with seven.
Jovic finally among the goals, too
Against Leganés, the goal Madridistas had been crying out for finally arrived. Indeed, Luka Jovic really had the ball in the net twice, only for the first of two headers into the corner to be ruled out for offside. Nevertheless, both finishes offered cause for good faith that the Serb can ultimately prove to be the fox in the box that Madrid have paid 60m euros for.