LaLiga Round-up: Time’s up for Zidane as Real Madrid Falter Again6 min read
Clock ticking for Zidane?
He can’t be defended any longer. After a tepid 2-2 draw against Levante, a team that hadn’t won in La Liga since mid-November, Zinedine Zidane has run out of excuses.
When your backs are against the wall and things aren’t going so well, that’s when you look to your leaders to provide, well… leadership.
Zidane’s stubbornness and inability to switch things in-game on more than one occasion will be his downfall. Compare him with Ernesto Valverde who, to this point at least, has solved every single problem he has faced.
Match-changing substitutes, an XI selected for the opponent, not on name only.
Basic management principles that Zizou can’t seem to grasp.
A heavy defeat against Paris Saint Germain must surely spell the end of his reign.
Going from the supposed ‘best team in the world’ to, statistically speaking, one of the worst Real sides means that someone has to carry the can.
Florentino Perez has never failed in his duty as executioner, and though his support of club legend Zidane is laudable, it threatens to undermine his tenure too.
And that’s something he won’t abide.
It’s 22 unbeaten for Barca
Barcelona deserve great credit for ekeing out a point at neighbours Espanyol.
Traditionally a hard-fought encounter, as the two Catalan derbies in the past fortnight proved, on a quagmire of a pitch, the Blaugrana still managed to get something positive from a game that was slipping away from them.
For once, Ernesto Valverde’s side couldn’t get their passing game going to any great degree, the ball sticking in the puddles that formed almost as soon as the match kicked-off.
Tackles needed to be expertly timed, and with Espanyol content to hit their opponents over the top on the break, it promised to be a long afternoon for the visitors.
Once Gerard Moreno had provided his best Superman impression and headed the hosts into the lead, it seemed more than likely that Barca would suffer their first league defeat of the season.
As so often before in 2017/18, however, Valverde’s changes made the difference. Sending on Jordi Alba opened out the play, and it was from out wide that Barca were given a free-kick on 82 minutes.
Lionel Messi, a substitute for the day, provided his only meaningful contribution as he drilled in the free-kick for Gerard Pique to rise highest and power in a header of his own.
Public Enemy No.1 had exacted the ultimate revenge.
No more goals meant a 22nd game unbeaten from the start of the season, surpassing the previous record of Pep Guardiola from 2009/10
Correa’s rocket the difference for Atleti
Neither side could really afford to drop points in this one if they maintained genuine aspirations of catching Barcelona at the top of the table.
Of the two teams, Valencia were the most in need of a win, and until Angel Correa’s special strike, they were good value for a point.
With coaches that share a similar philosophy on how the game should be played, it’s no surprise that Atletico and Los Che were like rutting stags going head to head for the most part.
In a congested midfield, Geoffrey Kondogbia stood out, and despite Marcelino suggesting his team were already ‘tired,’ Valencia gave as good as they got throughout the opening half.
Atleti captain Diego Godin even lost a tooth after a punch from visiting goalkeeper Neto, who came out of his goal rather too enthusiastically.
The goal, when it came, was a beauty. Koke’s assist allowed Correa to set himself for an absolute rocket of a shot which flew into the net.
Both sides continued to go at it hammer and tongs but no further goals meant that the Rojiblancos end the weekend nine points behind leaders Barcelona – a gap Simeone will feel his team can bridge over the final 16 games.