Zinedine Zidane’s hasn’t figured out Real Madrid’s midfield conundrum

It wasn’t known how the surprise defeat to Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey during the week would affect Real Madrid, but their 4-1 away win over Osasuna on Sunday allayed any fears over any lasting damage, giving the capital club a six-point lead ahead of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with the Catalans set to face Real Betis on Sunday evening.

Indeed, it was an emphatic response from Zinedine Zidane’s side, especially after falling behind early on. Osasuna made the first 20 minutes tough for the visitors to Pamplona, but Real Madrid adjusted and came storming back, adding some gloss to the scoreline late on in the second half.

However, the match still gave Zidane something to think about. While many areas of his team are working there, Real Madrid still have something of a midfield conundrum. Against Atletico Madrid, the Frenchman picked five central operators in the hope that they would help control the derby. All they did, though, was clog up the centre of the pitch with changes made at half time in accordance.

Against Osasuna, Zidane opted for a lighter midfield, with Gareth Bale surprisingly selected over Toni Kroos despite the Welshman being ostracised recently. The idea was that this would free up space for the likes of Isco and Luka Modric to drive into, but with few bodies in the centre of the pitch Real Madrid struggled for control.

Real Madrid’s midfield has been something of a contradiction this season. While Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Fede Valverde have all excelled in recent months, particularly in the case of the latter, Zidane has yet to settle on the shape and system to get the absolute best out of them. He seems unsure on which three to pick for the biggest, most important games.

In the end, Isco and Modric used the extra space offered to them against Osasuna to their advantage, putting the tiring hosts to the sword in the second half. But against higher calibre sides they might have been played around. Real Madrid’s high press wasn’t up to much. With the Spanish title race set to intensity over the next few weeks, and the Champions League soon to return for the round of 16 stage, Zidane will surely have to settle on what he wants his midfield unit to look like.

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

Would Paul Pogba be a good fit for Real Madrid?

It threatens to become the transfer saga that will define this summer in European football. There has been smoke for months and the closer we get to the end of the season, the fire is starting to appear. Paul Pogba is, reportedly, a target for Real Madrid and the player himself has done nothing to distance himself from rumours linking him with an imminent exit from Manchester United.

The Frenchman’s Old Trafford career has been a difficult one to decipher. It is widely agreed that Pogba is United’s best outfield player and yet his inconsistency since returning to the club from Juventus has infuriated and frustrated. Now, there is a growing acceptance at Man Utd that if Real Madrid come calling with a mega-money offer this summer, they should sell.

Paul Pogba

This assumes, however, that Pogba will fare better at Real Madrid than he has at Manchester United. Is that really the case? Real Madrid already boast one of the best midfield units in the European game, so where would the Frenchman fit? Is he really what the Spanish giants need at this time?

Well, perhaps. It is certainly the case that the midfield unit of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have delivered great success for Real Madrid over the years, but at least in the case of the latter two, age is catching up with them. Modric, in particular, has become a shadow of his former self, enduring the worst season of his career.

It’s entirely possible, maybe even expected, that Modric will leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, with Inter Milan believed to be a potential destination for the Croatian. Kroos could also leave. The German has long been linked with a switch to the Premier League. There would be no shortage of suitors.

This could open up space for Pogba to fill. Real Madrid have become a stagnant side over the past season and the Frenchman would help shape things up, giving them some much-needed drive through the middle of the pitch. If Zinedine Zidane is intent on playing a 4-3-3 system, as seems to be the case, then Pogba would fit in on the left side of that midfield trio.

That’s where Pogba excelled in his time at Juventus and Zidane could replicate that environment to get the best out of a player with the capacity to dominate games. Real Madrid are set for a summer overhaul and there’s reason to believe Pogba would give them something they don’t currently have.

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

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.

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

Zidane pushing for Real Madrid summer clear out


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.

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


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.

Continue reading

Modric: Worthy of all the individual awards?


real-madrid-010918nPortuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine legendary footballer Lionel Messi have dominated world football over the years with their supreme consistency and match-winning abilities.

However, it has all changed this season with Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric awarded the FIFA Men’s Player of 2018 award at the expense of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who were the other 2 finalists on the podium. It was all the more shocking considering the fact that Lionel Messi was not nominated amongst the Top 3 nominees for the first time since 2006. Not only this, the Croatian even went on to pip the Portuguese supremo and Liverpool’s maestro for the UEFA player of the year award on the back of an incredible season.

Continue reading

Casemiro- The Next Makelele


14962557423749The Santiago Bernabeu wore a festive look with the club supporters in a state of excitement. It seemed as if Christmas had come early. There was every reason to believe so with their beloved team Real Madrid all set to battle it out against fierce rivals Barcelona at home, trailing the latter by just 3 points. A win at home had every chance of generating the momentum necessary for a league challenge.

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique had opted to rest Argentine superstar Lionel Messi who had been a major threat in previous fixtures scoring goals and assists with great splendour which was nothing short of music to the ears. At the same time, Spanish manager Rafa Benitez had fielded a lineup consisting of some of the most attacking minded midfielders in the business like Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.

Continue reading

Isco- The Enigmatic Messiah


isco-real-madrid-celebration_ninouk1opkmb1kx2vozw19q1pThe rivalry shared between Spanish footballing giants Real Madrid and Barcelona is one of the fiercest ever in world football. Fans from both sides are eager to witness a triumph over the opposition at any cost with a top quality performance in an El-Classico more than capable of heralding a player to cult status despite all his lacunas over the years.

The rivalry extends off the field as well with players encouraged to adopt an attitude of intense dislike or hate towards their rivals at every stage which has been certainly been crystal clear over the years. Several footballers who dared to switch from Real Madrid to Barcelona or vice-versa like Luis Enrique, Luis Figo purely for footballing reasons were termed as “traitors”, enjoying a welcome capable of shaking one’s soul to the core.

Continue reading

Asensio- Real Madrid’s next Galactico


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.

Continue reading