REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: more alive than ever as Zidane targets trophies

Los Blancos start February in decent form and with everything to play for: LaLiga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League. This is not the norm.

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Real Madrid: more alive than ever as Zidane targets trophies
JESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELA

Real Madrid had become accustomed to starting February, when the business end of the season begins to take shape, having been out of contention for at least one of their three competitions. They'd either be way off the pace in LaLiga or eliminated from the Copa del Rey. That run, however, is over, thanks to the 2019-20 side under Zinedine Zidane.

Real Madrid have it all to play for

The triumph in the derby on Saturday cements Los Blancos' position at the top of the table, Barcelona having a chance to reduce their lead to three points on Sunday when they host Levante. And as well as the league focus, there is a much more serious side being put out onto the field for the Copa this season, with the French coach saying that they are taking each game as it comes, and seemingly importance being given to every competition.

Madrid, with such a predilection for the Champions League, were having a difficult time holding their own across various fronts. Last season, February began on the back of a change in manager (from Solari to Lopetegui) and they were seven points behind Barça, five from Atlético. The league already seemed a distant dream. In the previous campaign, 2017-18, Leganés put paid to any Copa hopes Los Blancos may have had at the end of January. An elimination with the return leg at the Bernabéu that angered Zidane greatly. "I am responsible, it is a failure," he said grimly.

Zidane, en el banquillo blanco.

That result left a mark on the French coach, who also failed to reach February still alive in the cup during his most successful year, the double of 2016-17. That time it was Celta Vigo who dismissed Madrid from the domestic competition on 25January.

A first since Carlo

The 2015-16 campaign was catastrophic for Madrid both in the league and the cup, with Rafa Benítez overseeing the controversial Cheryshev case in Cádiz. The previous one with Carlo Ancelotti again saw the Copa exit of an unbalanced side, this time at the hands of neighbours Atlético. It was the Italian, however, who last managed to take Los Blancos into February with everything still at stake, back in 2013-14.

The team sat third in LaLiga, but were just one point from Barça and Atlético, while they were through in the Copa del Rey and would continue on to final glory at the Mestalla where Bale destroyed Bartra. That early year position has not been felt again by Madridistas until now.

It's the business end | Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring against Atlético Madrid.

It's the business end | Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring against Atlético Madrid.

With the league fixtures appearing to favour the capital club over their title rivals Barcelona, and their main star, Eden Hazard, about to rejoin their ranks, there is a positive glow over the club at the moment. Being drawn against Athletic in the next Copa quarters is by no means an easy task but is one that Zidane will expect to deal with successfully. Then is the small matter of Pep Guardiola's Man City in Europe. At this stage in the season, the glisten of the trophies is in sight, and for the first time in years, Madrid have everything to play for...