This could be the year when Zinedine Zidane finally earns full recognition for his performances as Real Madrid coach, because if he guides this team to Champions League glory after Wednesday’s 0-0 quarter-final draw in Liverpool, it will be his finest victory yet.
– Real Madrid bus window smashed on the way to Anfield
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Real’s 3-1 win in last week’s first leg in Spain ultimately provided a comfortable cushion for the return match at Anfield and booked a semi-final match alongside Chelsea later this month. In front of the empty stands once again due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zidane̵
“I’m not saying anything, we live in the two competitions [along with La Liga], we are happy, but we have not won anything either. We have had tough moments, but we are here at the end of the season when you play for everything and we have to keep going, ”said Zidane.
Liverpool created plenty of chances to win the match and draw, but unlike their incredible 4-0 Anfield win against Barcelona in the semi-finals in 2019, the ball did not roll for Jurgen Klopp’s team on this occasion.
Real, full of experience and know-how, just kept his nerve and got the job done. And that in itself is a testament to the kind of qualities that this team possesses, such as endurance, patience and perseverance that are not associated with Real Madrid.
When Zidane guided the club to three consecutive Champions League titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018, it was a team of sparkling talents led by Cristiano Ronaldo and reinforced by Gareth Bale in his prime with the defensive solidity of Pepe at the back. Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were also part of Zidane’s hat-trick of Champions League successes, as each was at the peak of their careers.
But when Zidanes Real were eliminated in the last 16 of Manchester City last season, it seemed as if the club was ready for a transition period with a new wave of players to buy and the blood to replace the old guard. It still has to happen with Kroos, Modric, Benzema and Ramos who are the wrong side of 30 years, but despite the obvious fall of this right team from its heights in recent years in the last decade, Zidane has on one or the other way to get them to a Champions League semi-final.
“It’s the character they have. They always want more, the more difficulties the team has, the more they come together. Then of course we have more than enough quality, but that’s the character the players have,” Zidane said of his players.
Despite their domestic problems in a season in which several important injuries have cut off their Premier League title defense, Liverpool remain a threat in Europe and Klopp’s team could have won this draw comfortably if they had taken their second leg chances. But Zidane and Real still came through the test and they will now believe they can come out as European champions again this season.
They hope to have captain Ramos in place and be ready for a draw against Chelsea, as the middle half lacks this draw due to injury before testing positive for COVID-19 and Raphael Varane, who missed both legs of this draw due to the virus , is also likely to return to Thomas Tuchel’s page.
So Real continue to know they want to be stronger. But while Benzema continues to be a world-class center-forward, with 20-year-old Vinicius Junior offering pace alongside the Frenchman, this Real team lacks the adventure and star quality of its predecessors. It’s a more prosaic team without an obvious midfielder, so Zidane must find a way to ensure Real can beat Chelsea before a final against either City or Paris Saint-Germain.
And that is the challenge that, if achieved, will lift Zidane to another level as a coach. It would also make him the first coach to win four European trophies, so the story really waves to the 48-year-old.
Chelsea, with just two defeats in 18 games under Tuchel, do not fear this real team, but their settlement of Liverpool in the first instance will serve as a warning to the Stamford Bridge side. Liverpool allowed Kroos too much time and space to wreak havoc with his pass and they were caught by the pace of Vinicius.
But Real’s shortcomings at the back were also revealed by Liverpool in both legs, and it required a commanding performance in the second half by former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to keep Liverpool in check.
However, Zidane will be happy to face Chelsea in the next round instead of City or PSG. At the moment, City and PSG would go to a draw against Real as favorites, but in a one-off game in the final in Istanbul would only get to write off Real. When he guided Real in honor of the three previous occasions, Zidane knew he was in charge of the best team in Europe, and they proved it every time.
This season, Real are one of the outsiders and it is an unknown position for them to be in, which is why it will be so much more special and significant if Zidane can master yet another Real Madrid Champions League victory.