Valencia threatens more trouble for Zidane’s Madrid
MADRID – Agence France-Presse
A Real Madrid slip-up in Valencia led to Zinedine Zidane being appointed coach, but another setback for the reigning Spanish and European champion at Mestalla this weekend would leave the Frenchman hanging onto his job.
Zidane’s promotion to the role of coach dates back to January 2016, a day after Real had twice squandered the lead in a 2-2 draw at Valencia, costing Rafa Benitez his job.
Benitez was ruthlessly dispensed with at the first opportunity just six months after his appointment, but Zidane is still in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu despite a dreadful recent run culminating in Jan. 24’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal exit at the hands of Leganes.
Zidane admitted after that game that his job is now on the line, with his team now out of the Cup as well as languishing in fourth place in La Liga, 19 points behind leader Barcelona.
However, the aura around Zidane -- whose first two years were soaked in success -- is such that he looks set to at least be given the upcoming Champions League last 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to prove he can still turn things around.
“If at the end of the year we win the Champions League it will be an incredible year,” Cristiano Ronaldo -- whose own decline has been a source of huge concern -- told Chinese football app Dongqiudi.
“This season we didn’t start well in the league. We are disappointed, we are not happy but we have to work towards the Champions League, the most important trophy.”
Rather more focus on the league may be wise, though -- Real is as close to the relegation zone in terms of points as it is to Barcelona.
Indeed the team is five points behind third-placed Valencia, albeit with a game in hand, so can ill afford to lose on Jan. 27, especially with Villarreal and Sevilla coming up behind.
“We are playing against one of the best teams in the world, even if they seem to be not doing great,” said Valencia skipper Dani Parejo, who came through the Real youth system.
“We are above them and we are playing at home, but I think Madrid are the favorites,” added Parejo, whose side did make it through to the Copa del Rey semi-finals in midweek.
The spotlight on Real has taken the focus away from Atletico Madrid, but Diego Simeone’s side is underperforming too and was also sent packing from the Copa del Rey, losing at Sevilla on Jan. 23.
“The responsibility is absolutely mine. Now we need to improve, and we have four months left,” said Simeone, whose team hosts struggling Las Palmas on Jan. 28.