Zinedine Zidane brought Real Madrid’s outcasts in from the cold and they repaid him with a win over Celta Vigo on Saturday but Spanish La Liga’s football title race could well be over after Atletico Madrid were beaten by Athletic Bilbao.
Isco and Gareth Bale each scored in Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Celta before Atletico lost 2-0 at San Mames, giving Barcelona the chance to go 10 points clear if they overcome Real Betis late last night.
Barca’s superiority has been clear for some time but Zidane’s new era is up and running. Isco, who had not started a single league game under Santiago Solari, gave Real the lead shortly after the hour and Bale got the goal his own committed display deserved to put sorry Celta out of sight.
Bale was teed up by Marcelo, who was also dropped by Solari but recalled, while Keylor Navas pulled off a superb save in the first half, having been brought back in ahead of Thibaut Courtois.
“Nobody can erase what these players have done,” Zidane about those players he recalled. “I will count on everyone.”
The victory ends a run of four consecutive home defeats for Madrid and means they are now two points behind Atletico, nine back on Barca.
That deficit will surely prove too big to close but Zidane’s job was to restore morale in the 11 league games that are left and to find out what, and who, needs changing in the summer.
“My team-talk was really simple,” Zidane said. “I told them to have fun, to play, to run together and to be united when we don’t have the ball. When we have it, let’s have fun, and that’s what we did.”
At times, it felt like a pre-season fixture, not just because of the baking hot sun but the relaxed atmosphere and the sense this is now a team on trial.
Source : The Herald