Madrid feels the heat after another flop show

AFP
Pressure is building on Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane after the La Liga champion flops again, this time at home to Villarreal, its first ever win at Santiago Bernabeu.    
AFP
Reuters

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo shoots at the goal but his effort is saved by the Villarreal goalkeeper during their La Liga match on Saturday. Real lost 1-0.  

The Spanish press did not hold back in its criticism of a “shattered” Real Madrid, a team “in crisis” after its 0-1 home defeat at the hands of Villarreal in La Liga.

“Inexplicable” was the front-page headline on Madrid sports daily Marca on Sunday, which remarked that the reigning Spanish and European champion “don’t know what is happening to them” in La Liga.

Just days after Zinedine Zidane signed a new contract until 2020, serious questions are being asked of the Frenchman’s ability to turn things around after two trophy-laden years in charge.

Real has picked up just one point from its last three league games and has won only once in five that leaves it fourth in the table, 16 points behind leader Barcelona.

“No goals, no luck and no explanation,” said sports daily AS on its front page. “Everything is going wrong,” wrote editor Alfredo Relano in his column. “This result sinks Madrid further into the sombre mood that has invaded everyone, including Zidane.”

If it had already given up on any hope of retaining the league title even before Saturday’s game, there are now concerns that it could miss out on a top-four spot altogether.

Real is eight points behind third-placed Valencia, which was a 2-1 winner at Deportivo on Saturday. It is also only one point clear of Villarreal in fifth — not since 2004 has it finished outside the top three in La Liga.

In Barcelona, the Catalan press seized the chance to stick the knife in.

“In crisis,” headlined Mundo Deportivo below a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo, on the ground with his head in his hands.

Sport focused on the troubles in front of goal of Ronaldo, who missed numerous chances at the Santiago Bernabeu before Pablo Fornals’ magnificent late winner for Villarreal, its first ever victory there.

Ronaldo has just four league goals this season, while Gareth Bale is struggling for fitness and form and Karim Benzema has been injured. The previously feared ‘BBC’ no longer carries the same aura.

“The white collapse is basically the collapse of Cristiano and, by extension, that of the whole ‘BBC,’ a trident that died months ago now without anyone having realized,” wrote Sport editor Ernest Folch.

Relano added: “Madrid started to fall behind because Cristiano was missing; then, because when he came back the goals were not going in; in the end, because the gap at the top provoked a disenchantment that shows.”

Zidane is “an elegant coach but has no answers on the blackboard,” according to Folch.

There is a danger that his position could become untenable if Madrid, the two-time defending European champion, loses to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16, the first leg of which will be played at the Bernabeu on February 14.

Frederic Hermel, Madrid-based correspondent for French sports daily L’Equipe, noted that Zidane “still doesn’t appear prepared to make any changes to his team, despite another defeat... (that) leaves a feeling of powerlessness.”



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