Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

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No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading

Real Madrid all but surrender late title bid with shock defeat to Girona

Real Madrid v Girona

Last Sunday morning, the Santiago Bernabeu bore witness to what may well have been the end of Real Madrid’s thin hopes of a late La Liga title challenge.

The Spanish giants and current Champions League holders stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to bottom-half side Girona in front of their disillusioned fans.

Girona are enjoying only their third season in the top flight of Spanish football having been promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the fantasy football heroes and zeroes after this surprise win for the Catalonian club.

Defensive issues for Solari ahead of Valencia test

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Santiago Solari knew that life as Real Madrid manager would not be an easy ride, but following his first defeat last weekend, he now faces a huge La Liga clash against Valencia on Saturday.

The defending European champions were defeated 3-1 away at Eibar in La Liga Game Week 13, ending Solari’s honeymoon period of four unbeaten games in all competitions since taking over from Zinedine Zidane.

The Argentinian welcomed back first team stars Raphael Varane and Marcelo to his defence, following injury, but they were unable to keep Eibar out at the Estadio Municipal de Ipurua.

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Asensio- Real Madrid’s next Galactico

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15043574173140Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is hardly the man expected to take a decision from his heart. The 71-year-old enjoys a reputation of being extremely cold-hearted and emotionally detached when it comes to taking decisions catering to the interests of the club. Some of the finest managers in football history like Carlo Ancelloti, Jose Mourinho, Vicente del Bosque, Rafael Benitez will willingly testify to the fact that dealing with a shrewd tactician like Perez is no mean feat in itself.

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Julen Lopetegui is getting the most from Real Madrid

The hiring of Julen Lopetegui as Real Madrid manager was a peculiar one. Of course, the circumstances around his appointment were farcical, with Lopetegui sacked as Spain boss on the eve of the World Cup. It wasn’t just the circumstances that made the hiring peculiar, though.

Before pitching up at the Santiago Bernabeu Lopetegui had been a manager at just one club side, Porto. His coaching experience beyond that was purely at national team level, working through the youth ranks with Spain before being handed the senior team job. Even at senior team level, though, Lopetegui never managed at a major tournament.

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It was a bold appointment from Real Madrid, a club who usually only go for the most experienced and most proven managers. But we are already seeing the influence of Lopetegui in the way the capital side have started the season, both in La Liga and the Champions League.

Real Madrid might have dropped points away to Athletic Bilbao last weekend, they have made an otherwise perfect start to the La Liga season, backing that up with an impressive and comprehensive 3-0 win over Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

That win over Roma was marked by goals from Gareth Bale, Isco and Mariano Diaz. This went some way to illustrating the difference Lopetegui has made at the Santiago Bernabeu in a very short space of time. While Zinedine Zidane’s record as Real Madrid manager cannot be questioned, winning three straight Champions League titles at the club, he didn’t always made the most of his squad.

Marco Asensio, for instance, stagnated under Zidane. Isco struggled to find a place in the Real Madrid team too, with Bale and Karim Benzema also stunted in their development. Zidane knew how to win knockout games, but there were a number in his squad who were seemingly unhappy and certainly under utilised by the Frenchman.

Dani Ceballos perhaps provides the starkest illustration of this so far. Had Zidane stayed over the summer, it’s likely the young midfielder would have left Real Madrid, either on loan or on a permanent deal. Ceballos might be billed as one of the stars of Spain’s future, but Zidane didn’t seem to be a fan, giving the former Real Betis player very few opportunities last season.

Now, however, Ceballos has been installed as a key player for both club and country, starting in Spain’s 6-0 Nations League demolition of Croatia last week. Ceballos has some work to do to nail down his position for Real Madrid, but his early season performances mean he has certainly made an impression.

Lopetegui is a maximiser. That’s why he was so good as Spain manager, where signings cannot be made. Lopetegui is now maximising Real Madrid’s squad. Even in the post-Ronaldo age, they still boast so much quality and that is now coming to the fore under their new manager.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

Asensio, Ceballos, Isco set for big season for club and country

Had Zinedine Zidane remained at the Santiago Bernabeu over the summer, it’s debatable whether Dani Ceballos would have stayed there with him. The young midfielder was signed as one of Real Madrid’s marquee additions last season following an impressive showing at the 2017 European Under-21 Championships, but failed to make much of an impression last term, only making a handful of appearances.

For whatever reason, Zidane didn’t appear to rate Ceballos, despite the quality he had shown for both Spain’s Under-21 side and Real Betis. Talk started to build towards the end of last season that the midfielder could be loaned out or even sold in the summer. Given the accuracy of the rumours that built regarding the respective futures of Mateo Kovacic and Cristiano Ronaldo, those suggestions likely had some weight.

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The surprise exit of Zidane at the end of the 2017/18 campaign gave a number of Real Madrid players a career reprieve, and Ceballos was one of those players (along with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema). Even better for the 22-year-old was the subsequent appointment of Julen Lopetegui as Zidane’s successor.

He couldn’t have hoped for a better manager. Having worked with Spain’s youth teams all the way through to the senior squad, Lopetegui is a coach who tends to favour young, homegrown talent. We have already started to see that have an impact on the likes of Marco Asensio, Isco and of course Ceballos, with all three installed as first team figures over the early part of the season.

It’s not just for Real Madrid that Ceballos has enjoyed some early success this season. He was handed his competitive debut for Spain on Tuesday night, starting the Nations League game against Croatia. Ceballos excelled as Spain thumped the World Cup finalists 6-0 and put down an early marker under new manager Luis Enrique.

Ceballos is set for a big season for both club and country. His career appeared to have hit the skids last season as first team opportunities became harder to come by at Real Madrid, subsequently locking him out of the national team reckoning. Now, he looks to be back on track, as is Asensio.

He took looked to have struck a period of early stagnation in his career, failing to build on what was a blistering start to the season last year. In time, Asensio found himself a peripheral figure at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was a similar story for Isco too; one of the most talented players in the Real Madrid squad, but restricted to appearances off the bench.

Things are changing at Real Madrid, though, and the likes of Asensio, Ceballos and Isco will be vindicated in their decision to stick it out in the Spanish capital. Lopetegui is turning Real Madrid into a more homegrown, possession-based outfit and the benefits of that are already being felt my many of their squad.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

Dani Ceballos’s Coming of Age Season

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992139-01-02There was an unnatural sense of excitement in the air as journalists whispered furiously amongst themselves at the end of an emphatic 3-1 win for Spain against Italy in the semifinals of the UEFA European U-21 Championship conducted in 2017. While the hero of the night undoubtedly was Atletico midfielder Saul who smashed a hat-trick under pressure, there was another youngster who had caught the eye with his spectacular performance, bewitching the audience with his tricks and mesmerising gameplay.

It was none other than 20-year-old Real Betis midfielder Dani Ceballos who made heads turn with his patience, vision and a perfectly weighted assist for Saul’s opener despite the presence of established players like Gerard Deulofeu, Héctor Bellerín. Italian midfielder Roberto Gagliardini lost his mind completely when nutmegged by Ceballos, going to the extent of knocking him to the ground in a desperate attempt to salvage some pride earning him a red card.

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Can Benzema return to his best under Lopetegui?

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Karim-Benzema-1040x572The appointment of then Spain manager Juen Lopetegui as the eventual successor of legendary manager Zinedine Zidane whose sudden, unexpected exit sent shockwaves down the spine of Madrid supporters all around the world invited contrasting viewpoints from different sections. With the likes of Andre Villa-Boas, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochetinho hailed as potential favourites, the appointment of a Spanish manager was greeted with suspicion especially considering the fact that none of the last 5 native managers appointed for the managerial role had managed to exceed 7 months.

Lopetegui was sacked just a day before the commencement of the world cup by the Spanish footballing federation who were bemused at the utter disrespect on show by the Galacticos who announced the appointment of Lopetegui on the eve of the world cup. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has not been known to see eye-to-eye with the federation on numerous occasions which certainly played a key role in the harsh decision by the board.

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Real Madrid- The only side with 2 World-Class Goalkeepers

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NAVAS“This club has great history and we’re writing more now, as the club has done over the years. Madrid never give up,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane may be known for his hard as nails attitude but one could distinctly feel a tinge of emotion in his voice as his beloved club earned a spot in the UCL finals for the third successive season after a hard-fought win over bitter rivals Bayern Munich.

The Frenchman’s comments drew mixed responses from the experts with a certain section of the pundits perceiving his remarks as “downright arrogant” in nature. The Los Blancos certainly had the perfect response in store with a dominating 3-1 win in the Champions League finals over cup challengers Liverpool, emerging as the only side to lift the illustrious trophy for 3 consecutive years.

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