Clasico performance showed Marcelo isn’t finished at Real Madrid

When the Real Madrid team sheet was published before last week’s season-defining Clasico clash against Barcelona there was a notable surprise name included. It had been assumed that Zinedine Zidane would start Ferland Mendy against the Catalans with the French left back rested for a number of matches beforehand.

However, it was Marcelo who was picked to play at left back, raising some eyebrows. The Brazilian hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons, with many predicting that he will leave the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the campaign. A move to Serie A has been mooted and with Mendy now seen as Real Madrid’s first choice left back there was little to keep him in the Spanish capital.

Against Barca, though, Marcelo was exceptional. He provided Real Madrid with an outlet throughout and was crucial in securing a 2-0 win that saw Zidane’s men return to the top of La Liga. After a run of poor results it was critical that Los Blancos got back to winning ways and re-established their advantage over their fiercest rivals and title challengers.

Of course, one impressive display, even one in a Clasico against an opponent of Barcelona’s calibre, doesn’t necessarily mean that Marcelo has a long term future at Real Madrid. Mendy still looks to be Zidane’s first choice in the position and at 24 years old the Frenchman will continue to get better and better as he gains maturity.

Zidane has recently stood up for Marcelo in the face of mounting criticism, making an argument in favour of one of Real Madrid’s most decorated players. “It’s upsetting because he gives his all when he plays – not just Marcelo, all the players do – but this isn’t going to change. I can say it’s upsetting, it’s not good because they go out there and play to their maximum. The fans who were there saw that.”

In the immediate term, Marcelo still has something offer. He remains an attacking force and still has the trust of his Real Madrid teammates. That was evident in his display against Barcelona and with the fixtures coming thick and fast Zidane will need to use his full squad between now and the end of the season. Marcelo will be called upon again before too long and having impressed against Barca that might now not seem like such a risk.

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Copa del Rey exit underlined group of players Real Madrid must cast aside

The quarter finals of the Copa del Rey haven’t been especially kind to Real Madrid in recent years. Last season, they crashed out at the last eight stage to Barcelona. The season before that they suffered a humiliating home defeat to Leganes. This season, Zinedine Zidane’s side somehow contrived to concede goal goals at home to Real Sociedad, exiting the competition on Thursday evening.

Real Madrid’s late fightback made for a grandstand finish, with the scoreline closed from 4-1 to 4-3, but nonetheless this was a damaging defeat for the capital club. The Copa del Rey might not be as high on the list of priorities as La Liga, but it’s still a domestic honour that has largely managed to evade the Santiago Bernabeu for the majority of the last decade.

Of course, the rotation of Zidane’s side for the game against Sociedad suggests that he would rather focus on La Liga and the Champions League, but in that rotation a certain group of players that need to be pushed out of the club as soon as possible made themselves apparent.

Zidane has done an admirable job in evolving his squad this season with the likes of Ferland Mendy, Fede Valverde and Rodrygo bringing a new verve after a busy summer in the transfer market. But there remains the likes of James Rodriguez, Marcelo and Brahim Diaz, players who offer very little at this stage to the Real Madrid boss.

Brahim actually impressed in spells against Real Sociedad, but has struggled for first team opportunities this season. It’s difficult to envisage where he fits into Zidane’s plans and so it’s likely that he will leave the Santiago Bernabeu, whether it’s on loan or permanently, in the summer.

James and Marcelo, however, are only taking on salary space which would be better used elsewhere. Both players have served Real Madrid well, particularly Marcelo, but the time has come for them to be moved on and Thursday’s performance in the Copa del Rey illustrated this.

It was always likely to take a number of transfer windows for Zidane to get his squad right. He has harnessed many of the club’s Old Guard, the likes of Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, but others no longer have a purpose at the Santiago Bernabeu. What happened on Thursday night underlined just how important it is that these players are cast aside.

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Real Madrid’s clear out begins

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The news that Sergio Ramos has personally requested a transfer from Real Madrid should sound the alarm bells.

With a plethora of staff already being made available by the club, losing their talismanic captain just a year after Cristiano Ronaldo is a sure sign that Los Blancos are still on the way down.

Zinedine Zidane knew when he returned to the helm at the Santiago Bernabeu that this wouldn’t be an overnight job, but even he must’ve been surprised at just how far behind Barcelona his side have fallen. Continue reading

Ligue 1: Week 37: Player Picks for the Weekend

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Most of the major European leagues have finished but in France Ligue 1 doesn’t end until the end of the month. PSG are champions of course and Lille and Lyon look like they will get Champions League places. Relegation is still up for grabs though, could Caen really survive and take down the 2017 champions Monaco, it looks more likely as the season draws to a close.

Below we pick in a 4-4-2 formation the players that could be most likely to shine and earn you points this weekend.

Goalkeeper: Stephane Ruffier- Saint Etienne

Stephane Ruffier has been superb in goal for Saint Etienne and the club have conceded just 3 in the last 6 games. They will be at home to Nice and this is the clubs last roll of the dice. Ruffier can be added to your team for 7.5m.

Defender: Marcelo- Lyon

Marcelo has played 31 times and is ranked as the best Lyon defender this season. Lyon are at home and really need the win. They will have a tough game against Caen who are fighting to stay up, but Lyon possess more quality and Marcelo is just 8m.

Defender: Dani Alves

Dani Alves for PSG could have a good game, this is PSG’s last home match of the season and it may well be Alves last game for PSG given his age. He will want to put in a good performance and they are playing Dijon who are really struggling, Alves could well earn some valuable points here.

Defender: Hilton- Montpellier

Hilton has played almost the whole season and Montpellier kept a clean sheet in their last game as they try and finish the season on a high. They are playing Nantes at the weekend but they are at home and every chance to get a good result, he is 6m.

Defender: Lamine Kone- Strasbourg

Kone has a had a decent season and has become a staple figure in the side. It is true that Strasbourg have just 1 clean sheet in their past five games however the club will feel confident that they can do so when they entertain Rennes at the weekend and Kone should be looked into.

Midfielder: Remi Oudin- Reims

Oudin is valued at 10m but he has had a great season for Reims even if the club are going through a difficult spell. He has assisted in 3 goals and scored a further 10 and with the season almost near the end he might be worth sticking in your team.

Midfielder: Arber Zeneli- Reims

Sticking with Reims, is Zeneli another player that can switch it on and create chances. Reims have not been in good form but have the quality to finish the season well and they will be playing Bordeaux who have been very poor this season so their luck could change. Zeneli can be yours for just 6.5m.

Midfielder: Ismaila Sarr-Rennes

Sarr has been in good form for Rennes as they take on Strasbourg away at the weekend it what could end up being quite a close game. Sarr has scored 7 goals and also assisted 6 times and he is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Wylan Cyprien- Nice

Cyprien has so much quality but what tends to happen is that he goes through periods of the season quiet. The question is can he finish it on form and with a bang? He can be brought into your team for a bargain 5m and Nice will be playing Saint Etienne at the weekend.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Lille

Nicolas Pepe has been one of the best players in Ligue 1. This is Lille’s last game at home to secure 2nd place and it all looks set for Pepe to add to his goals this season. He should be taken on.

Striker: Edinson Cavani- PSG

This could be Cavani’s final game in Paris as he is set to leave the club. He has scored so many goals for the club. Kylian Mbappe is struggling with fitness and Neymar is banned from this game, so this should be Cavani’s time to step up and score a few goals. He is 13m which is expensive but at the same time the players will be creating many chances for him, that’s for sure.

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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.

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.

Marcelo Madrid

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’s Real Madrid return could offer reprieve for Isco

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The return to La Liga side Real Madrid of Zinedine Zidane could spell a return to first team action for midfielder Isco, after previous boss Santiago Solari froze out the Spanish international this season.

The former Malaga player has not started a La Liga game since Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui in back in October 2018, and the club announced earlier this week that they would be opening disciplinary proceedings against him, after he missed a team meeting.

However, with Zidane coming back to the club he left nine months ago, he could look to bring the 26 year-old back in from the cold.

Continue reading

Barca could end Solari’s Real Madrid career

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Earlier this season, Julen Lopetegui knew definitively that his Real Madrid coaching tenure was over when Los Blancos were hammered 5-1 at the Camp Nou.

The manner of the defeat left Florentino Perez no other option, notwithstanding that the president needs no excuse to exercise his trigger finger. Continue reading

James Rodriguez to lead Real Madrid summer exodus

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James Rodriguez is set to leave La Liga this summer, with Real Madrid happy for the Colombian international to move on after an unfulfilled five years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodriguez, 27, signed for Los Blancos ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, on the back of an outstanding performance at the World Cup two months before, however his face never seemed to fit at the club particularly under previous boss Zinedine Zidane.

Despite the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, he does not appear to be guaranteed a continued role in Bavaria either.

Continue reading

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

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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.