WOLFSBURG - REAL MADRID
The 5 sins which condemned Madrid against Wolfsburg
96 hours after beating Barça at Camp Nou, Madrid stumbled at the Volkswagen Arena and complicate their path towards the 'Undecima'...
Just 96 hours after emerging triumphant from Camp Nou Real Madrid stumbled at the Volkswagen-Arena. Madrid's record in Germany isn't much to write home about, and so it was again but this time it wasn't one of the classic sides who have troubled them in the past. It was the team which occupies eighth place in the Bundesliga - who are 34 points behind Bayern. A Wolfsburg brimming with enthusiasm, order and an inspired Julian Draxler was enough to tip over a Madrid who lacked intensity. That, together with a surplus of confidence, was the first mortal sin Zidane's players committed which sees them stray off path in their quest to lift the 'Unidécima' - their chief objective to salvage the season. But it wasn't the only one…
1. Lack of intensity
Real Madrid played without passion. While it's true that the team entered the game well (Cristiano had a goal disallowed in the first minute and Bale had a penalty appeal waved away two minutes later), little by little they started losing their grip on the game until Casemiro gave a way a penalty and Ricardo Rodríguez slotted in Wlfburg's second on 17 minutes. As soon as Madrid were two goals down, the defensive mistakes and lapses in concentration really started to seep in. Madrid lost the ball 130 times (compared to the 119 lost by Wolfsburg). The Germans found it easy to read Madrid's defence and took full advantage, playing in balls over the top of both centre-backs. Between them, Danilo, Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo lost possession 55 times… In three moves and with relative ease, Wolfsburg put themselves 2-0 up against with barely any resistance at all from Ramos and Marcelo, who seemed way off the pace of the game. The German hosts beat them hands down in terms of enthusiasm: running five kilometres more than their guests in total (110 compared with Madrid's 105).
The Brazilian deserves a chapter all on his own. Zidane returned to mnake a concession to the president's box (the defender cots 31.5 million euros - plus commission, last summer) and fielded him from the start, leaving Carvajal, one of the best at Camp Nou, on the bench. Against Barça, the youth team graduate gave a recital in pressing holding the line which effectively snuffed Neymar out of the game. With Danilo, it was the complete opposite - Draxler gave him a torrid time out on the left flank, and the Madrid full-back's contribution in attack was zero. Just by looking at his figures you get the picture: he recoevered just one ball, less than anyone else in the Madrid side including Benzema, who only played 40 minutes. He didn't win one single high ball, or one-on-one duel, and didn't have any shots on target or off… Zidane justified his decision by explained that Danilo started to hand Carvajal a rest, - to give a breather to a player who is 24 years old and more than used to playing at the top level every three days. Madrid steady decline started out on the right wing.
3. Benzema played 28 minutes with a throbbing knee
The French striker went almost half an hour in pain after taking a blow to his knee in a challenge from Naldo. Zidane decided to see if Karim could see out the half and that was the wrong decision - he should have been taken off. “I asked him and he said he could continue. When he told me he couldn't carry on, that's when I took him off”, Zidane said afterwards. Coaches need to be quick-thinking and above all, quick to act at this level; if you are not, you pay in the Champions League. Benzema was taken off on 40 minute and in his place - Jesé, another gaffe from the coach…
4. Zizou got his substitions all wrong
The first switch was Benzema who left the field injured on 40 minutes when Madrid were 2-0 down. Zidane decided to bring on Jesé, a striker for a striker when what was really needed was someone to lock down the midfield. There was no connection between Modric and Kroos on the night. Despite the 'BBC' being dismantled after Karim fell injured, Zizou persisted with his 4-3-3 formation which bogged the team down. On 64 minutes, when the game was entering into its decisive stage, he took Modric off, replacing him with Isco, who didn't liven up the team in the desired way. Kroos made way for James, leaving the team with just one midfielder, Casemiro. It was another sign that the coach hasn't got his tactics clear. For example, he could have brought on Lucas Vázquez, and intense player who can open up spaces and deliver balls into the rivals' box. "The substitutiuons didn't alter anything. I'm responsible for that", Zidane admitted.
5. Switching Bale to the right wing
Gareth Bale started the game on the left, a variant which budged Cristiano out of his comfort zone. The Welshman shone out wide on the left, driving Vieirinha crazy, but the team channeled most of their attack down the right. On minute 68, just when Marcelo and Arnold had their little episode, Bale had a chat with Zidane. When play resumed, Bale was seen over on the right flank, and his game plummeted. And so did the team's. It ended 2-0 and now Madrid have to claw back a result in Tuesday's return at the Bernabéu if their dream of lifting the 'Undécima' to save the season comes off..
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