Real Madrid: Zidane's four-trophy challenge
Zinedine Zidane is preparing Real for the new year with LaLiga, Copa del Rey, Champions League and Spanish Super Cup glory in his sights.
Following the Christmas break, Real Madrid are back to work and getting ready for a new year in which head coach Zinedine Zidane is eyeing a four-trophy haul that would win back the prestige lost in the disastrous 2018/19 season. It's a huge challenge, clearly; but Zidane has done it before. In 2017, Madrid claimed no fewer than five pieces of silverware: LaLiga, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
Spanish Super Cup
After taking on Getafe in LaLiga this Saturday, Madrid travel to Saudi Arabia for the new, four-team Spanish Super Cup. On Wednesday 8 January, Zidane's men face a semi-final against Valencia, a side they were unable to get the better of at Mestalla in mid-December. Indeed, they needed a last-gasp Karim Benzema equaliser to avoid defeat. If they come through their clash with Los Che, they will meet either Barcelona or Atlético Madrid in the final on Sunday 12 January.
Barça and Atlético are two sides Madrid also haven't been able to beat this term, although, like Valencia, they haven't lost to them, either: both match-ups ended in goalless draws, with Los Blancos offering a fine account of themselves at the Camp Nou in December. What's more, Zidane's Madrid have recent form for defeating Barcelona in the Super Cup, having claimed a 5-1 aggregate victory over the Blaugrana in 2017.
Copa del Rey
The Copa is the only trophy Zidane hasn't been able to win as Madrid coach. Not only that, but it has brought some of his lowest ebbs as Bernabéu boss, with the surprise quarter-final exit to Leganés in 2017/18 - after a 2-1 home defeat in the second leg - proving a major factor in his decision to step down after the Champions League final win in Kiev. "For me, it's a major setback, I'm really disappointed," the Frenchman said after being knocked out by Los Pepineros, before adding on the day of his resignation: "There are moments that make you stop and reflect, moments that stick in your mind."
A year earlier, Celta Vigo had also ended Zidane's Copa aspirations by winning 2-1 at the Bernabéu. After finding out the identity of their third-round opponents on 14 January, Madrid get their cup campaign underway the following week.
Although he has won as many as five Champions Leagues with Madrid - one as a player, one as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti and three as boss - Zidane is constantly at pains to reiterate that winning LaLiga is what he finds most fulfilling as a coach. "It's the happiest day of my footballing career," he said after Madrid's league title victory in 2016/17. "When the season starts, the only thing you think about is the day-to-day challenge of LaLiga [...]. It's the toughest competition [to win]".
Madrid currently sit second in the table after 18 games, and can reach the halfway stage of the campaign top of the pile if leaders Barcelona, who have a two-point advantage, slip up against Espanyol this weekend. It's a situation that differs greatly to the past two seasons, both of which saw Madrid all but out of the title race at this point. Last year, they were 10 points off the top; the season before that, 13. 2017/18's lacklustre championship defence was another of Zidane's reasons for resigning.
Having won four of the last six Champions Leagues, right now it is a trophy that is arguably less of a priority for Real Madrid and Zidane, a coach who is yet to lose a knockout tie in Europe's premier club competition. However, the fact remains that it is a tournament that Madrid, as 13-time continental champions, are synonymous with; what's more, club president Florentino Pérez never tires of noting that it is a competition that determines your standing in the world game.
After struggling through the group stage, Madrid have been given a last-16 clash with Manchester City, with the first leg at the Bernabéu on 26 February and the return at the Etihad Stadium on 17 March.
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