Real Madrid were handed a defeat at the Mestalla as Munir El Haddadi powered Valencia to a 2-1 win over Zidane and his men
Real Madrid saw their lead atop the La Liga Santander table cut down to a single point as Los Blancos suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat at the Mestalla, at the hands of a Valencia side who have struggled in the recent seasons.
Munir El Haddadi was the star for Valencia as goals from Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana secured a massive win for the home side. Zidane, though, saw his men succumb to one of the few defeats they have had in the league since the Frenchman took over.
Us at The Hard Tackle explore some of the talking points to emerge from the game.
Munir El Haddadi is currently on loan at Valencia as part of the deal that saw Paco Alcacer move to Barcelona. The player has been impressive for them this season and on Wednesday night, he was the one pulling all the strings against Real Madrid.
— Pastore 10_Messi 10 (@Reemidepp) February 22, 2017
The player not only contributed to the attack with the assist for the opening goal but also made a goal-line clearance to thwart Real Madrid’s effort to mount a comeback. Valencia do have a buy option embedded in the loan deal and the club are unlikely to let a talent of Munir’s potential slip away from their hands.
Slow start costs Zidane and his men
Real Madrid got off to a horribly slow start, one where Zidane saw his side conceded two unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes of the game. And they never recovered from the early jolts. Cristiano Ronaldo did manage to get one back later but Los Blancos left themselves with too much to do after an incredibly slow start.
Unlike other times, Zidane has marshalled his troops brilliantly with a well-rounded off rotation policy. But the players, especially the defence, looked a bit off the pace from the beginning of the match, something that Valencia took advantage of.
It is something that Zidane himself would have noticed, and the Frenchman is likely to address this issue in an attempt to make sure there isn’t a repeat of the situation.
Loss unlikely to aid Keylor Navas’ Real Madrid situation
There is widespread speculation regarding Real Madrid and Florentino Perez prioritising the addition of a world-class keeper in the summer, with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, David De Gea and Hugo Lloris all linked with them.
While Keylor Navas has been more than decent, Real Madrid’s defeat to Valencia again highlighted the need for a keeper who can save matches on his own, something Keylor has done very rarely.
— TheHardTackle (@TheHardTackle) February 23, 2017
Real Madrid are still in the lead atop the La Liga table. But, if they were to lose the advantage and end up not winning the league, the echoes of Keylor’s demotion or departure might grow louder.
Raphael Varane has been touted as a future mainstay in the Real Madrid lineup and has seen Zinedine Zidane back him over the much-experienced Pepe this season. But, on Wednesday, Varane simply failed to deal with Valencia’s attackers and was often seen struggling to keep them at bay.
MARCA: RMadrid doctors fear Varane has torn his thigh muscle. He could miss up to 4 matches.
AS: Varane will be out for at least 3 weeks. pic.twitter.com/IdVTdSlpaK
— RMadridHome (@RMadridHome_) February 23, 2017
Varane has been otherwise solid at the back for Real Madrid, but performances like these may bring his long-term viability into question. Zidane, though, has shown incredible faith in Varane’s potential to step up and Real Madrid fans would hope it is more a rare blip than a continuous occurrence.
2017 already worse than 2016 for Real Madrid
What a change the new calendar year has brought upon Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane’s side set to break all records in the current campaign in 2016 and come 2017, Los Blancos seem to be struggling to keep their fine run going.
Real Madrid have now lost more #LaLiga games in 2017 (2) than they lost (1) in the whole of 2016.
Contrasting fortunes. pic.twitter.com/DKqyhTPtMZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 22, 2017
Zidane’s men have lost 2 La Liga games already this year, by February while they had mustered only a single defeat in the entirety of 2016. Real Madrid’s lead has been cut down to a single point by Barcelona and they would have to be careful of the chasing pack now.
Two defeats in the league isn’t surely much of a crisis, and Zidane might still be content with their current placement. But the Frenchman, being the perfectionist he is known to be, would have one eye on the aforementioned stat and would see to it that it doesn’t become a common occurrence.