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Zidane tightens up the defence: 3 clean sheets in 3 games

Before the games against Sevilla, Osasuna and Atlético, Real Madrid had kept a clean sheet just six times in nine months. Courtois hasn't been beaten in 3 games.

Zidane, durante un lance del derbi ante el Atlético disputado en el Metropolitano.
Denis DoyleGetty Images

Just under a fortnight ago, Zinedine Zidane was trying to figure out how his Real Madrid side let in three goals to a sub-strength PSG in Paris. "We lacked intensity," was the coach's conclusion. "They surpassed us in everything”.

That night, Los Blancos didn't have one single shot on target during the entire game (they had two goals ruled out by the ref). PSG however, had five attempts on target - three of which beat Courtois.It was an all too familiar story for Zidane's team, who had conceded in all fives of their games since the start of the season. And tracing the issue back further, Madrid had only managed to keep a clean sheet six times in nine months - on average, they'd been shipping at least one goal in over 82% of their games.

Madrid's defensive issues addressed

But 10 days after that defeat to PSG, everything seems to have changed  - Madrid have not conceded in their last three league games - against Sevilla, Osasuna and last night in the derby against Atlético. Zidane has reorganized the team from the back. In the last three league games, Sergio Ramos and led the back four accompanied by Raphaël Varane and Dani Carvajal at right-back with Mendy and Nacho standing in at left-back for the injured Marcelo. Whatever Zidane has been doping with the team on the training ground seems to be working as Madrid have only received one shot on target in 270 minutes of competition (a weak Diego Costa effort at the end of last night's derby). Maybe the coach remembered the words of fomrer basketball coach Chuck Daly: “Attacks win games, defences win championships”. Madrid have total 36 shots on goal (and average of 12 per game), but only 11 of them (30.55%), have been on target.

Another factor which has helped Madrid turn the tide is Casemiro, who has recovered possession for the team 39 times during the last three games (an average of 13 per match). That is the kind of intensity that Zidane said has been absent from Madrid's game. Traditionally, Madrid fans demand to see an attacking team but all great teams are built from the back and it was becoming obvious that for Madrid, the defence was a problem that needed urgent attention…