Tag Archives: real madrid

Is Zidane What Real Need?

Just over a year ago, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid were claiming their fourth Champions League in five years, and their third in a row. A far cry from the side that crumbled against PSG on Wednesday evening.

They managed to hold off a Liverpool side yet to reach the heights of last season, helped by two calamitous errors from Loris Karius.

This Real Madrid side that ruled Europe was packed with individual brilliance, from back to front. Yet, particularly in the last couple of years, it has felt as though this is a side lacking in the collective.

There was no particular style of football you could really label Los Blancos with aside from that of being a pure winning machine, which some may very fairly argue is the most impressive and important style of all. 

While their individual brilliance saw them through Champions League nights, it generally failed to sustain Real properly throughout a league campaign. Throughout their five year period of continental dominance, Los Blancos only won La Liga once. 

On the flip side, you have Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. A superb collective that can dominate over a season in the league, where a one off bad result can be bounced back from. But the chaotic nature of the Champions League knockout stages does not allow for such things. It’s hard to deny that there is a strong element of luck in pretty much all knockout competitions. 

At times, it has felt like fortune favoured Real. Spirited and deserving opposition performances were put to the sword with moments of fortune and brilliance. Overhead kicks have seemingly been a particular feature of Real’s recent dominance in the Champions League. 

And who could deny the wondrous ability of their players. A front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric creating in midfield anchored by Casemiro.

Even in defence, Real Madrid had more excellent attackers. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal probably spent most of their time in the opposition half, and Sergio Ramos’s goal threat from set pieces is admirable.

But this attacking brilliance felt like a problem lying in wait – a lack of coherence and defensive stability. Casemiro was thrown in at the base of midfield, but at times it appeared to be more like Pritt Stick trying to hold an aeroplanes wings on. 

There was a fragility covered up by superstar moments. Real’s midfield and attack had little defensive nous aside from their Brazilian anchorman. And Marcelo’s frequent raids forward left so much space in defence, not helped by Ramos’s instinctive drive to attack the ball. 

It’s miraculous that these weaknesses were never really exploited. It felt inevitable that they would be, and that the time would soon come to shift on Los Blancos’s brilliant but ageing stars. 

Now we skip ahead past their disaster of 2018/19, with Ronaldo’s departure and the chaos of Julen Lopetegui, to the present day back with Zidane. 

There has been some forward shift. Eden Hazard has taken up the number seven shirt, and Vinicius Junior emerged into the first team last season – a child of the 2000s. 

But in defence, there are still issues. Ramos is a conundrum – there is no denying his incredible and combative defensive ability, particularly in one on one duels. But he is reckless, often darting from his position and leaving space in behind him.

However, Real Madrid seem to struggle to cope without him. He was missing last night against PSG as Los Blancos fell to a 3-0 defeat. That was thanks to a two match suspension he picked up for deliberately getting a yellow card in the first leg of Real’s last 16 tie against Ajax. We all know how that second leg went. 

Nacho Monreal also being suspended won’t have helped Zidane and Real, but their failings in Ramos’s absence shows their reliance on individuals – be it through their ability or character. 

Ramos is far from the perfect defender, but he is an aggressive leader and Los Blancos seem to struggle without him. They also, of course, have struggled since Ronaldo’s departure. Not only have they lost his show-stopping moments on the pitch, but also the leading character of the Real Madrid blockbuster. 

Marcelo, for all his frankly laughable defensive lapses, also seems to be a missed presence when he is not in the side. Even when he hits crosses woefully behind their intended recipient, they get finished off via overhead kicks. Some of those sparking moments seem to be fading.

And perhaps this shows what the strength of Zidane was and is. Somehow fashioning this unwieldy band of superstars into a single minded and driven unit, capable pulling off spectacular moments to win big matches – matches they arguably sometimes did not deserve to win. 

But now there is a rebuild going on. The superstars from that team are dispersing, waxing and waning. Zidane has an entirely different task on his hand to when he first took up the Real Madrid job. Old structures will have to be knocked down for new ones to be built, and Zidane may not have the right managerial talents to do so. 

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UEFA Champions League Final – The All English Road to Madrid

Some 11 years after Manchester United prevailed against Chelsea, Saturday marks the 2nd all English UEFA Champions League Final in history; as Liverpool take on Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Tottenham manager Pochettino had his work cut out for him from the start, facing a challenging group of Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan. Spurs and Inter tied for second place on points and goal difference, with Spurs only reaching the knockout rounds by tallying more goals in total.

They immediately made an impact in the round of 16, thrashing German giants Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at Wembley; furthermore consolidating their Champions League status by winning the away leg as well.

It appeared that Spurs’ UCL dreams could be quickly over, as they drew Treble winning Manchester City in the quarterfinals. Pochettino managed to lead his side to a 1-0 victory in their first Champions League game in the new stadium, and the away leg in Manchester was one to remember. Spurs scraped their way through to the Semi-Finals, following an enthralling game filled by VAR and controversy. They lost the second leg 4-3 but secured their place through the away goal rule.

The London team further shocked the football world when achieving their place in this years UCL final; a second-half hat trick from Lucas Moura including an injury-time winning goal was what it took to overcome Ajax. This will be The Lilywhites first European final since 1984, where they beat Anderlecht to raise the UEFA Cup.

Few teams in this year’s competition had a harder run than Liverpool. Following the backlash that Klopp’s men received in the 2017/18 UCL for their somewhat easy run of fixtures, the Reds’ have certainly earned their place this year in Madrid. Having survived arguably the toughest group stage in this years competition – consisting of Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli – Liverpool then surged on to defeat domestic-double winning Bayern-Munich and Porto.

The Reds semi-final victory is bound to go down in the history books after an astonishing night at Anfield. Facing Barcelona, Klopp had his work cut out for him; even more so after losing the first leg 3-0 in Spain, and star attackers Salah and Firmino injured.

Nearly everybody would have thought Barcelona were through to another UCL Final, their first since they last won the trophy in 2015. At Anfield, Origi opened the scoring early, following a rapid brace from newly substituted Wijnaldum. In the 79th minute, the stadium filled with ecstasy. Origi managed to get his second, and Liverpool had triumphed. The game was one that flooded fans with the nostalgia of that night in Istanbul in 2005.

Alongside the UCL, Liverpool’s fantastic run in the Premier League spurred themselves and Manchester City to the highest two team point total in Premier League history, being narrowly beaten by The Blues by a single point. Having not lost a game since 3rd of March, along with a series of injuries to the XI including Mohammed Sarah, Roberto Firmino and Joe Gomez as well as long term injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

Tottenham performed well in this year’s Premier League season, finishing 4th and securing their place for next years European competition. Very few people would have expected them to reach this stage, so will they go on to cause an upset? England’s star striker Harry Kane left the field injured during their victory over Manchester City in the UCL and has yet to make a return to action. There is a slight doubt of his fitness, but facing Liverpool, Pochettino needs all the firepower he can get. Sanchez, Winks and Vertonghen are also doubted for the clash against Liverpool.

Liverpool may have the psychological difference going into the game, following their success in the Premier League this season. The Reds’ beat Spurs both home and away 2-1 on each occasion. They are certainly favourites to win this years competition and will be seeking revenge following last years disastrous loss to Real Madrid. We predict Liverpool will prevail, and win the game 3-1.

Four managers that could replace Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea

Chelsea managers in the past have always been “under pressure” and under “intense scrutiny” over the years, but none more so than Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri has been doing well, especially at the start of the season, but in recent weeks, his Chelsea side have been struggling, and results such as being thumped 6-0 by Manchester City, and a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bournemouth do little to help the cause, which has led to widespread speculation that Sarri could be sacked soon.

But why? His tactics, commonly known as “Sarriball” haven’t won over the fans, with the home support venting their fury following his sides FA Cup exit at home to Manchester United.

Could his time be up? If so, which managers could replace him? We take a look at who could be the umpteenth manager at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003.

Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, and Zinedine Zidane are just four of the high profile names being linked with the job.

We’ll start alphabetically, and go with current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino – who has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford, doesn’t have trophies to his name, but does get the best out of players, and will surely be likewise at Chelsea.

Since coming to the Premier League, Pochettino has somewhat overachieved at Southampton, guiding them to an 8th place finish before going on to manage in London where he has turned Spurs’ from being happy with a top-four finish to title challengers. This season has been difficult with stadium issues being a stumbling block, coupled with not being able to spend money in either transfer windows. So either issue hasn’t helped, but so far, he has shown that he can pull through difficult situations.

Next up, its the animated Diego Simeone. He’s been linked with the post in the past, so its no surprise his name crops up again. Unlike his Argentinian compatriot, Simeone does have titles to his name, having won two Europa League titles (2012 & 2018), one league title (2014), and one Copa del Rey (2011). Oh, on top of those, he’s also overseen his side win one Spanish Super Cup (2014), two UEFA Super Cups (2012 & 2018), and two runners-up finishes in the Champions League (2014 & 2016).

His current side has gone from strength to strength over the years, from being a Spanish equivalent of Tottenham Hotspur (in my opinion anyway) to muscling with the big boys. He has also shown that he has what it takes to compete at the top, especially as he’s very good at competing in bad situations.

Arsene Wenger – this sounds like an odd one as being an Arsenal fan, I can’t picture Wenger managing another Premier League club.

He has an eye for young talent, and would get the best out of players like Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi (with the latter not getting much game time). He was under intense scrutiny in his last few years, but has often produced good results, even when up against it.

It would be rather strange to see him at a different Premier League club. Imagine a slightly young Sir Alex Ferguson rocking up at Tottenham Hotspur? Yes, it’s THAT strange!

Lastly, Zinedine Zidane. – He has been a surprise package, having not had managerial experience prior to taking over the reigns at Real Madrid (however he did coach the youth side,

Having won three successive Champions League titles, one La Liga title, one Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA Club World Cups, his CV shows why he’s a strong candidate. His tactics show that he’s one who plays interesting football that’ll get fans up on their seats. He’s not a “park the bus” sort of manager.

As I was typing this, news came that Chelsea have been banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows, and that’s something that may turn off managers I’ve put in this list, but maybe not Pochettino (or Wenger) so they can step forward.

But that’s just my view. Which manager do you think is best suited to potentially replace under pressure Maurizio Sarri?

Who could hold the key to keeping star player Eden Hazard at Stamford Bridge?