PETE JENSON: Too reliant on Benzema, Isco and Marcelo past their sell-by dates and no faith in Luka Jovic… why Real Madrid’s latest defeat has raised old doubts about Zidane’s chances of retaining the title
Zinedine Zidane has made a virtue of sticking by the players who won him three straight Champions Leagues (Gareth Bale aside) but that loyalty looked misplaced again on Sunday night in Mestalla when Marcelo and Isco came back into the side and Real rolled over against Valencia.
Marcelo’s numbers are particularly damning. Of the 57 games in La Liga that Zidane has taken charge of since returning Marcelo has played in 28 of them and not played in 29.
Of the 28 he has played in Madrid have been beaten nine times; in the 29 games he has not featured in they have never lost.
Sergio Ramos (left), Vinicius Junior (middle) and Marcelo (right) react during Real Madrid’s 4-1 defeat to Valencia in Laliga on Sunday night
It was another evening to forget for Zinedine Zidane as the pressure mounts on him again
Isco, likewise, seems to coincide with the team’s worst results and the coach was left explaining why, when the team had already been hit by the coronavirus absences of Eden Hazard and Casemiro, he further weakened the side by playing two players who look long past their best.
Madrid have now conceded goals in their last six games and the goals conceded per game is the worst ratio for Zidane since he returned. And things are no better at the other end of the pitch.
If Karim Benzema does not score then too often the team does not hit the back of the net. The club now face an anxious wait to see how injured the Frenchman is after he hobbled off on Sunday night.
Zidane does have alternative options at centre-forward but he has shown time and again to have very little faith in them.
Zidane remains over-reliant on Marcelo, who seems to play whenever Real Madrid lose
There is also a misplaced loyalty to Isco, whose appearance coincides with Real’s defeats
Luka Jovic was his last change on Sunday night – it’s little wonder the Serbia international is so low on confidence with such a spectacular lack of backing from his manager.
Mariano was only called up to the squad for the first time in midweek and is another Zidane clearly does not fancy.
Borja Mayoral revealed in his press conference when he joined Roma on loan in the summer that Zidane had wanted him to stay. That suggested the coach preferred his other two forwards to leave.
Madrid are scoring just under two goals a game which is the second worst average under Zidane. Benzema has six goals but there is little support with Vinicius and Valverde both weighing in with three so far this campaign as the club’s second-top scorers.
Zidane is now left fretting on the extent of an injury to Karim Benzema, his first choice striker
It’s been painfully apparent for a while that Zidane has little to no faith in forward Luka Jovic
Late night TV show El Chiringuito ran a poll on Sunday that had a majority of Real Madrid supporters wanting a change in the dugout but that is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Zidane still has credit from winning the league last season, winning the first Clasico of this season, and appearing to rescue Real Madrid’s Champions League qualification chances.
Of more interest will be how he reacts to the latest setback.
Does his first 4-1 defeat as coach (his previous worst results were 3-0 defeats to PSG and Barcelona) tip him over the edge when it comes to no longer considering Isco and Marcelo.
Mariano comes on for the injured Benzema at the Mestalla, but Zidane doesn’t trust him either
And does the injury to Benzema and the team’s over-reliance on his goals make him reconsider the serious reservations he has over £54million signing Jovic?
It was a strange game on Sunday and without Raphael Varane’s own-goal and two handballs in the area things may well have ended differently but the lethargic, error-strewn last game before the international break has raised all the old doubts about Madrid’s chances of retaining their title this season.