Zinedine Zidane’s biggest season is coming up at Real Madrid

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They say never go back, but in the case of Zinedine Zidane that is what he did at Real Madrid. Walking away after the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool, Madrid went into meltdown. Not only did Zidane leave but so did Cristiano Ronaldo and president Florentino Perez went through two managers before Zidane waltzed his way back into the Bernabeu 10 months after leaving.

Truth is though results have not improved since he took over from the beleaguered and unfortunate Santiago Solari. Zidane holds just a 50% win rate compared to a near 70% from his first spell. One wonders if the appointment of Zidane should have been delayed until the end of the season, because at the moment everything looks so deflated even with Zidane in charge.

Real Madrid’s latest defeat came at the hands of Real Sociedad in a 3-1 loss, though to be fair Madrid have never travelled well up to Basque Country. And it does feel that players have switched onto holiday mode and the league still has one more game to go. Real will finish 3rd whatever happens and that guarantees Champions League football for next season, and next season is what it’s really all about for the club.

There will be huge change at the club in the summer and this is when Zidane will be making some sweeping changes to the club. Gareth Bale is almost certain to leave the club. The Welshman still boasts superb quality and would be a fantastic addition to any club in the world, but he needs change, a refresher course so to speak and Madrid still know that he is worth at least 70 million euros to buyers. Toni Kroos seems to have let the season pass him by and could leave also.

But one wonders if Zidane is really ready to shake the apple tree up. Is it time for Sergio Ramos and Marcelo to depart, staple players of the team in the 2010s, but one has to question if their hunger and desire is really there at the club anymore. If they can convince Zidane that it is then maybe they will stay. Karim Benzema who has actually had a decent personal season with the club may have played his last only because of the players that could be coming in.

Madrid have been linked to the likes of Eden Hazard, Neymar and even Kylian Mbappe. It will be interesting to see who the club bring in, but for sure they will have to sell first and at least 6 first team players will be playing their last games for the club next weekend.

For Zidane his 2nd term at Madrid really starts at the end of this season and it could be a career defining one. This will be the season targeted as the comeback one, Barcelon beware.

Real Madrid must ease reliance on Karim Benzema next season

Almost from the moment Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid was confirmed, the Santiago Bernabeu outfit have embarked on the longest pre-season programme in football history. Indeed, with Real Madrid out of the Liga title race, out of the Copa del Rey and out of the Champions League, the final couple months of the season became about preparing for the next one.

This has seen Zidane experiment with a number of options in essentially dead rubber games. He has tried different options in goals – Thibaut Courtois, Keylor Navas and even his own son, Luca Zidane. He has alternated between Marcelo and Sergio Reguilon at left back. Alvaro Odriozola and Dani Carvajal have taken it game about at right back. Jesus Vallejo has earned the Frenchman’s trust while even the forgotten man Mariano Diaz has been given a chance up front.

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Of course, Mariano has only been given a run in the first team due to the injury suffered by Karim Benzema. Questions were asked of the Frenchman last season, to the extent where his exit from the Santiago Bernabeu looked probable. However, the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer changed things and Benzema has delivered, crossing the 30-goal mark.

However, Real Madrid have become too dependent on the goals of Benzema. With Mariano’s goal in the win over Villarreal last weekend, he became the first player that isn’t Benzema to find the back of the net in 568 minutes. While they were once reliant on Ronaldo to provide a cutting edge in the final third, now it’s Benzema they lean on.

This is arguably the most pressing of all the concerns Zidane must have in his mind ahead of next season. Real Madrid will undergo a summer overhaul, with the squad almost certain to be replenished. It is in the final third where their efforts will be focused most acutely and they must find goals.

Quite simply, the likes of Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Isco and Lucas Vazquez haven’t contributed enough in front of goal this season. Even Vinicius Junior, the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season, needs to sharpen up his finishing. The addition of players like Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic, both expected to join Real Madrid this summer, should held, but Zidane knows what he must find ahead of next season – goals.

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Who will still be at Real Madrid this season?

From the moment Zinedine Zidane walked through the door into the press conference deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabeu to signal his return to Real Madrid, the gossip column has been full of speculation linking the Spanish capital club with countless elite players.

Indeed, Real Madrid are supposedly set to make moves for Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen, David De Gea and Paul Pogba, although it seems unlikely that all four targets will make the move to the Spanish capital this summer. Nonetheless, Zidane is expected to shuffle the pack at the Santiago Bernebeu before the start of next season.

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As part of this overhaul, there will be departures. This explains why Zidane has rotated his squad on a week-to-week basis since returning to the club. Real Madrid have long been out of the Spanish title race and suffered a round of 16 exit from the Champions League. Subsequently, Real Madrid have embarked on the longest pre-season in football history, all in order to make sure they don’t face the same struggles next season.

Zidane has experimented in every area of the pitch. Against Getafe on Thursday night, he handed Brahim Diaz, signed from Manchester City in January, his first La Liga start. There have also been starts for Sergio Reguilon over Marcelo and Fede Valverde over the likes of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. On one occasion, a home game against Huesca, Zidane even gave his son, Luca Zidane, a start in goals.

The Real Madrid manager is testing his players before deciding on who will stay and who will go over the summer. Thibaut Courtois is one who looks almost certain to leave, with Zidane favouring Keylor Navas over the Belgian, who was signed from Chelsea just a year ago. Marcelo is another who looks likely to leave.

It’s in midfield where the greatest turnover could be, though. Casemiro, Kroos and Modric have delivered great success for Real Madrid over the years, but rejuvenation is required and so all three could be up for sale this summer. Karim Benzema, who has hit the 30-goal mark, will be kept, but the Frenchman needs help.

Then there’s Gareth Bale, who is widely expected to be available this summer, but which club would be willing to spend upwards of £60 million on a player who hasn’t shown his best form for years? It might not just be about identifying players to push out the door for Real Madrid, but finding clubs to take them off their hands. That might be the difficult part.

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Zidane pushing for Real Madrid summer clear out

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Zinedine Zidane will push ahead with plans for a squad overhaul this summer, as he pledges to challenge Barcelona for the La Liga title in 2019-20.

The Frenchman has been clear in his desire to make changes at the club he led to three Champions League title between 2014 and 2017, and that means moving on some big names from the Santiago Bernabeu.

Club President Florentino Perez will fund certain transfer targets, but Zidane will have to clear out players to fund extra moves.

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Week 33: Best Players of the Weekend in Fantasy La Liga

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It was a weekend that saw the top 5 clubs in Spain win and Barcelona edging nearer to the league title once more and their 4th championship in five years. In the big match to help progress a top 4 position Getafe and Sevilla, 4th v 5th and it was Getafe who won the game 3-0 and the club moved into 4th place. Indeed another contender for a top 4 placed emerged in Valencia as Sevilla dropped down to 6th place.

But which players were the best performing of the past weekend, and who has earned you the most points in your team- look at these players and perhaps if you don’t have them, get them quick, as the season draws ever closer.

Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: David Soria- Getafe

In truth there were a few goalkeepers that earned 7 points at the weekend including Jan Oblak for Atletico Madrid. But David Soria of Getafe gets the nod given that his side won 3-0 and kept a clean sheet in such a big game as playing Sevilla, it could be a turning point in his career and for the club this season. Soria is 6m and is currently the 3rd best ranked keeper in La Liga Fantasy.

Defender: Diego Godin- Atletico Madrid

All of Atletico Madrid’s back four put in a super shift as the club conquered over Eibar 1-0 away from home. This was Godin’s 4th clean sheet in the last five games, and his tactical awareness and tackles was pivotal to keeping another clean sheet. He is valued at 9m and is currently ranked as the best defender in La Liga- this performance simply underlined that.

Defender: Ignasi Miquel- Getafe

Miquel has started just 2 games for Getafe this season but was drafted into the team because of injuries and considering his lack of first team football put in a memorable display in the heart of a defence that stopped Sevilla from scoring. His value is 2.5m.

Defender: Gimenez- Atletico Madrid

We often talk about the more recognisable players of this brilliant Atletico Madrid defence, but Gimenez has put in his great displays too and did so well alongside Godin. He earned 5 points as Atletico beat tricky Eibar away from home 1-0 and his value to buy is 6m.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid

Varane has not had a great season with Madrid but the hope is with Zinedine Zidane back with the team that will change. Varane has just 32 points this season but 5 were earned at the weekend as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0. Varane is valued at 8.5m.

Midfielder: Thomas Lemar- Atletico Madrid

Thomas Lemar not only scored the goal that won Atletico Madrid the match against Eibar but he put in a brave performance and looked very dangerous on the ball to earn 6 points this past weekend. Lemar has played 18 times and looks good value at 6m.

Midfielder: Sofiane Boufal- Celta Vigo

Sofiane Boufal has earned just 25 points this season and 20% of those points came in just one weekend as his club Celta Vigo rose to victory over Girona. Boufal was excellent as he assisted in the first goal and scored the 2nd, in a 2-1 win. However he dropped points for a yellow card. Boufal can be bought for 6.5m.

Midfielder: Marc Roca- Espanyol

Marc Roca seldom earns point but he got 4 at the weekend as Espanyol drew 2-2 against Levante away from home. Roca got his clubs 2nd goal which put them in the lead and played one of his best matches of the season. Roca is just 5m to buy.

Midfielder: Gareth Bale- Real Madrid

Earning 4 points was enough to get Gareth Bale into the team of the week. But the Real Madrid play maker had a good, solid and determined game. This culminated in the Welshman setting up Karim Benzema for the clubs 3rd goal at the end of the game. Bale has started 19 games this season and is valued at 11m.

Striker: Karim Benzema- Real Madrid

Karim Benzema has been in our team of the week quite a few times this season and he was simply sensational at the weekend, where he earned a massive 14 points after scoring a hat trick. Real Madrid beat Atlethic Bilbao 3-0 and Benzema got all of his goals in the 2nd half of play. He is valued at 10m and is ranked in fantasy La Liga as the 2nd best striker in the league.

Striker: Jorge Molina- Getafe

Jorge Molina and Getafe were playing perhaps the biggest and most important game of their season so far as Getafe played Sevilla a direct top 4 rival for Champions League qualification. Molina scored a penalty and a great goal in a match that ended 3-0. He has 9 goals this season and his value is rated at 6m. He is ranked 8th in Fantasy La Liga standings.

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Real Madrid must sell before they can buy

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Real Madrid are hopeful of radically overhauling their squad this summer, but much depends upon the sale of several star players. Media outlets always go into overdrive when it comes to talking about transfers in and out of the club, but this summer looks set to be even busier than usual.

Los Blancos currently sit a whopping 13 points off the summit of La Liga and suffered traumatic exits in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey. They are going to finish the season trophyless, and even worse they are going to finish it with two months of fixtures which, by all intents and purposes, are meaningless. Continue reading

Is Eden Hazard the right man for Real Madrid?

Anyone who watched Chelsea’s comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham United on Monday evening surely drew one conclusion – Eden Hazard really wants a move to Real Madrid this summer. The Belgian has been the subject of much speculation linking him with a switch to the Spanish capital and against the Hammers at Stamford Bridge, he was in sparkling form.

Zinedine Zidane was surely watching. So certain are some outlets that Hazard will join Real Madrid at the end of the season they have even reported the exact fee, with Chelsea said to be demanding £100 for their prize asset. With just one year left on Hazard’s contract, that would appear to be market value.

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Do Real Madrid need Hazard, though? Zidane will lead an overhaul of the tired and creaking squad at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, with outgoings expected along with incomings. Real Madrid never really replaced Cristiano Ronaldo and Hazard is seen by many as the natural successor to the Portuguese forward.

It’s certainly true that Hazard as the strength of personality to handle the pressure that comes with being a ‘Galactico.’ He has been building up to this moment his entire career and so it’s unsurprising that the Belgian has ramped up his performances for Chelsea just as speculation has come to a head.

But what about his positional use to Real Madrid? Hazard, by trade, plays on the left wing. That is, arguably, where Real Madrid are best equipped for the future, with Vinicius Junior the youthful face of the club after a breakthrough season. Zidane also has Marco Asensio in that position. So where would Hazard fit in?

Could he play on the right side? That’s Gareth Bale’s position right now, but the Welshman could be sold to make way for Hazard, so there could be a gap to fill there. But that would require Hazard to adapt his natural game. Are Real Madrid really going to pay £100 million for the Belgian only to turn him into a different player?

Zidane could feasibly use Hazard through the middle, behind Karim Benzema as the central striker. The Belgian has played there before in his career, but not always to great effect. So while Hazard might be destined to pitch up at Real Madrid this summer, it’s not yet clear where he will actually fit in.

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Will Zidane axe Bale at Real Madrid next season?

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Was Gareth Bale’s fate sealed at Real Madrid when Zinedine Zidane made a stunning return back to the club a few weeks ago? Well that is open to debate but when we think of Bale and Zidane’s relationship we think of immediately what happened after the Champions League final last year.

Even though Madrid had just beaten Liverpool to win their 3rd straight Champions League title and their 4th in 5 years, Zidane was being coy and Bale was being irritable. It felt that change was imminent- and it was. Gone was Ronaldo to Juventus and Zidane quit the club, and Bale stayed.

In the following season it was painfully evident that Madrid had lost too much quality and Bale was not able to carry the club, even though he has scored 14 goals this season. The famously difficult Madrid fans have really vented their anger and frustration at Bale, easily one of their best players in the last decade and even Ronaldo would get booed at times.

But fan negativity has been hard on Bale who knows that his quality would be appreciated much differently at another club. Zidane has made it clear that he sees no problem with Bale, but given that there is still two months of the season to go this is what the Frenchman is going to say.

Madrid need change at the club that is evident and whilst Bale is good enough to play for many more years, the fact that he has already been at the Bernabeu for 6 seasons and is 29, he is sellable. Zidane will understand that money will be available for his side, but that selling Bale could bring in anything between 80-100m extra which is going to give the club’s spending that much more power.

It is not that Bale isn’t good enough, the real issue lies with the fact that Zidane who is ever trying to refresh his sides will simply want new blood, and if Bale is sold in the summer which does look expected he should leave a hero and one of the very best players to have played for Madrid in the last 10 years.

As far as which club would Bale join, the offers should be plenty and of course there will be a temptation for him to come back to the Premier League. A return to Tottenham should not be ruled out and it would be an emotional one for the Welshman- a new stadium for Tottenham together with Bale’s return would be magic.

Otherwise such is the quality of Bale that he could play in any major league and with his fitness at a great level he has at least four years at the very top.

Fantasy La Liga picks for this weekend’s Spanish league action

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Spain’s La Liga returns to action this weekend after the final international break of the season.

Starting with Girona v Athletic Bilbao on Friday night, all 20 teams are in action over a 48-hour period.

We’ve had a look at who we think the smartest fantasy La Liga picks are for the upcoming fixtures.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy La Liga team this weekend.

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Does Zinedine Zidane’s return signal the end for Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Within minutes of the full time whistling after last season’s Champions League final, with Real Madrid’s players still celebrating on the pitch at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Gareth Bale threw fresh doubt on his future in the Spanish capital. His remarks were the clearest sign yet that the Welshman could be set to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Of course, as we know, Bale ultimately stayed at Real Madrid. His relationship with Zinedine Zidane had broken down, but the Frenchman resigned from his position before the Welsh winger could plot a route out for himself. With Cristiano Ronaldo also leaving for Juventus, this was seen as a fresh start for Bale.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale look dejected after the first goal of Sevilla team during their soccer match in Seville

The 29-year-old has failed to make the most of this opportunity, though. Under both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Bale failed to make himself a first team pick. He has become a scapegoat for the notoriously tough to please Santiago Bernabeu faithful, involved in a number of incidents which have made negative headlines in the Spanish capital.

And now Zidane is back. Indeed, the Frenchman made a shock return to Real Madrid on Monday, taking over from Solari following a week in which their entire season fell apart, dropping out of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Liga title race and the Champions League all in the space of six days.

With Zidane back at the helm, an overhaul is now expected in the summer. Players like Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all been linked with a move to Real Madrid as the capital club look to move into a new generation, but many are also expected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are weighed down by a number of ageing stars on big money. Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, among others, may well be club legends, but the time has come for them to be moved on. Bale might be another who is moved on.

A parting of ways might be best for both parties at this point. There is now such a circus around Bale that it’s difficult to envisage how he will ever turn things around. The Welshman’s options have never been narrower, with Manchester United no longer so keen and Chelsea recently handed a transfer ban, but staying at Real Madrid might not be open to him either.

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