After 2 Losses, Madrid Reeling Before Trip To Barcelona

·3-min read

BARCELONA, Spain: After being humbled by a recently promoted club and a Ukrainian side playing with reserves, Real Madrid faces a trip to Camp Nou.

Barcelona hosts Madrid on Saturday in the first clsico under new coach Ronald Koeman. And even though Barcelona is undergoing a rebuilding process after it ended last season without a trophy, Madrid comes to the clash with even more doubts.

Madrid has been outplayed at home by the modest Cdiz and a Shakhtar Donetsk that was without several starters due to a coronavirus outbreak among the squad.

In both losses, Madrid was sluggish and disorganized in defense, leaving opponents time and space to successfully launch counterattacks. Barcelonas attack of Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho and the young legs of Ansu Fati, Francisco Trinco and Ousmane Dembele will have taken notice.

Madrid was stunned 1-0 last Saturday by a Cdiz packed with several players who spent their careers in the second division until last month. During that loss, coach Zinedine Zidane said he would not have been surprised if Madrid had gone into halftime down by two or three goals.

That is exactly what happened on Wednesday when Shakhtar won 3-2 in their Champions League opener after a Madrid backline fell apart without Sergio Ramos, who was resting after hurting his left knee against Cdiz.

Madrid hopes to have its captain back against Barcelona.

Zidane has tried to absorb the blame for the embarrassing defeats.

Im responsible. As the first half was negative for my side, it means I did something wrong, Zidane said after the loss to Shakhtar.

I feel for the players because they have helped me win a lot of things. It was a bad game and they dont deserve it. But thats football. You have to keep going and think that if today is gray, tomorrow will be sunny.

But his squad is under pressure, both veterans and newcomers.

Against Shakhtar, Raphael Varane should have been its defensive leader with Ramos out. But Varane showed the same fragile defending that was behind his two errors that led to goals in Madrids exit to Manchester City in the Champions League in August.

Caught behind a Shakhtar player, Varanes lunge to poke away the ball put it into his own net, making it 2-0.

Marcelo and der Milito were unable to stop goals from Tet in the 29th minute and Manor Solomon in the 42nd.

Down 3-0 at halftime, Luka Modric and Vincius Jnior pulled two goals back, but with half an hour remaining the team could not culminate the comeback.

When we dont play well under pressure, everyone suffers. We found it difficult at the back, Varane said. Its a difficult time for the team, but weve got a very important game (Barcelona) and were focused on winning.

Marcelo, who lost his undisputed hold on a starting spot last season to the younger Ferland Mendy, has played three matches this season. Two of them were these consecutive losses.

That leaves Zidane with a difficult choice for the clsico if injured right backs Dani Carvajal or vlaro Odriozola do not recover in time. If he plays Mendy on the right to handle the speed and dribbling of Barcelona’s Fati, then he will have to keep Marcelo at left back, where he will face either Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Dembele or Trinco, all of whom are faster.

But if Zidane puts Mendy back on the left, then he would have to recruit Nacho Fernndez, a central defender, into taking on Fati. Barcelonas teenage sensation should have the advantage in that duel, meaning Fernndez would require help and thus Messi would have more space in the middle.

Barcelona comes to the classic on the heels of routing Hungarian side Ferencvros 5-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Even so, Modric says it is positive to have Barcelona up next.

Its a good thing that the next game is soon and its the clsico, Modric said. We havent forgotten how to play football. We can put in a good performance.


More AP soccer: and