This could be the year Zinedine Zidane finally gets full credit for his achievements as Real Madrid coach as if he leads this squad to the glory of the Champions League after the 0-0 second leg in the quarter-finals in the Liverpool second leg this will be his best triumph so far.
– Real Madrid’s 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 second leg at Anfield and made for a semi-final against Chelsea later that month. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zidane’s team was again standing in front of empty grandstands and stood firm against Liverpool’s attempted attacks in order to come one step closer to winning a record-breaking 14th European Cup.
“I won’t say anything, we live in the two competitions [along with La Liga]We’re happy, but we haven’t won anything either. We had tough moments but we’re here at the end of the season when you’re playing for everything and we have to keep going, “said Zidane.
Liverpool had many chances to win the game and the tie, but unlike their incredible 4-0 Anfield win over Barcelona in the 2019 semi-finals, the ball didn’t roll for Jurgen Klopp’s side on that occasion.
Real, full of experience and know-how, just held your nerve and got the job done. And that in itself is a testament to the qualities this team possesses, such as durability, patience and tenacity, that are not normally associated with Real Madrid.
When Zidane led the club to three consecutive Champions League titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018, it was a team of glittering talents led by Cristiano Ronaldo and bolstered by Gareth Bale in his prime, with the defensive solidity of Pepe in the background . Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were also part of Zidane’s hat-trick in Champions League successes when both were at the peak of their careers.
When Zidanes Real were eliminated in the Manchester City round of 16 last season, it seemed like the club were facing a transition phase in which a new wave of players had to be bought and bloody to replace the old guard. That still has to happen when Kroos, Modric, Benzema and Ramos are all 30 years old, but despite the apparent decline of this Real Madrid team from their highs in the later years of the last decade, Zidane somehow got 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. After that, of course, we have more than enough quality, but it’s the character that the players have,” said Zidane about him player.
Liverpool remain a threat in Europe despite their domestic troubles in a season where multiple key injuries have hampered their Premier League title defense and Klopp’s team could easily have won that draw if they had used their chances in the second leg. But Zidane and Real still passed the test and will now believe that they can become European champions again this season.
They hope captain Ramos is fit and available for the Chelsea draw. The middle half missed that tie due to injury before testing positive for COVID-19 and Raphael Varane, who missed both legs in this tie because of the virus. will probably be on Thomas Tuchel’s side again.
So Real goes forward knowing that they will be stronger. Although Benzema continues to be a world-class center forward and the 20-year-old Vinicius Junior offers pace alongside the French, this Real team lacks the adventure and star quality of its predecessors. It’s a more prosaic team without an obvious clutch player, so Zidane needs to find a way to ensure Real can beat Chelsea before a final against City or Paris Saint-Germain.
And that is the challenge that will take Zidane to another level as a coach when achieved. That would make him the first coach to win four European cups. So the story of the 48-year-old is a real challenge.
Chelsea, with just two defeats in 18 games under Tuchel, will not fear this Real Madrid team, but the breakdown of Liverpool in the first leg will warn the Stamford Bridge side. Liverpool gave Kroos far too much time and space to wreak havoc upon his death and they were caught in the pace of Vinicius.
However, Real’s shortcomings at the back were also exposed by Liverpool in both legs and it took a formidable second-half performance from former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to keep Liverpool in check.
However, Zidane will be happy to face Chelsea rather than City or PSG in the next round. In their current form, City and PSG would play favorites against Real, but few would write off Real in a one-off game in the final in Istanbul. As he led Real to stardom on those three previous occasions, Zidane knew he was responsible for the best team in Europe and they have proven it every time.
This season, Real are one of the underdogs and it’s an unfamiliar position for them, which is why it will be all the more special and meaningful when Zidane can claim another Real Madrid Champions League triumph.