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Half of Zidane's squad have already pulled the plug

Half of Zidane's squad have already pulled the plug

It’s quite plain to see now - Real Madrid’s second choice side is not what it was. That may seem trivial because when all is said and done, it’s the first team players who will always carry the can for the club; but if reserves don’t keep the first choice players on their toes, complacency will set in and that is not good. Right now, Madrid’s reserves aren’t pushing the senior players. We saw it in Fuenlabrada and once again last night in Soria. Madrid travelled home with a brilliant result, but looking at the finer details, it’s clear all that glitters isn’t gold. Two of the three goals were penalties – the first one was awarded shortly after Numancia had a clear appeal turned out at the other end; the second one was ‘fabricated’ by Lucas Vázquez. Iñigo Pérez came close to levelling with a wonderful long-range effort from the centre-circle which caught Casilla yards off his line but the ball struck the bar. At least the third goal, a back post header from Borja Mayoral well into stoppage-time was well worked and credible.

Madrid's reserves lack punch

Last season, Madrid’s second choice side was a godsend, but important players, such as Pepe, James and particularly Morata all left the club... you get the impression that even the enthusiasm has gone. Last season those players pushed hard for a chance to show their worth; now it seems to me that the general attitude is that, whatever happens, it will always be the same eleven who feature on the team sheet. And when I say whatever happens, let’s not forget that Barça are 14 points clear of Madrid in the table… Some of the fringe players have grown disillusioned. There are exceptions of course but only a few. Borja Mayoral, for example, grafts as hard as ever and last night, as part of a lethargic, disinterested team, he endeavoured to get his name on the score sheet and was rewarded in injury-time.

Mayoral has something to prove

Half of Zidane's squad have switched off the lights

Not everyone is as committed. Theo Hernández was left high and dry by Numancia’s forwards – too passive in defence and erratic going forward. Llorente didn’t take the reins of the team which he should while Asensio just looked sad, a sombre shadow of that player who illuminated last summer's Supercup final against Barça. Madrid have practically sentenced the tie but the aftertaste wasn't good. I don’t see any rebellion or drive, just an air of submission and acceptance that they will always be playing second fiddle to the first team stars, which they wear like a stigma branded onto their skin. Beyond gaining a flattering result against a Numancia side who played well even when they were on 10 men, Zidane has to take a look at himself in the mirror and think about what is going on here. Because half of his squad are disengaging from their duties before his very eyes…