Fútbol Focus: Barcelona and Real Madrid contribute to a very strange build-up to the Clasico

Their results and reaction to them are intriguing writes Robbie Dunne

BY Robbie Dunne 14:29 Tuesday 29 November 2016, 14:29 29 Nov 2016

Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane gives instructions from the side line during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Sporting at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Real Madrid won 2-1. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

To borrow and butcher a quote from Quint about JAWS, "I don’t know, Chief, if he’s very smart or very lucky".

There are two ways to look at Real Madrid’s streak since Zidane took over a serviceable ship from the departed Rafa Benitez last January.

Zidane was asked what went wrong on Saturday after his side’s 1-0 win over Sporing Gijon and his reply was, "A little bit of everything…"

On the contrary, Zizou. Everything went right. Duje Cop missed a penalty, Ronaldo landed two early before your team went cold in front of goal. Sporting Gijon lacked that final pass and were unlucky on other occasions.

Just like during Real’s run to the Champions League final when Atletico had to beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the final, while Real Madrid played Wolfsburg and Manchester City.

Much like it did when Celta Vigo, a team that started La Liga as poorly as anyone, had every chance to beat Real Madrid but were beaten 2-1 by somewhat luck home side.

Have a look back over match reports and tweets and you will see the typical cliched replies to many of these games.

"Made to work hard."

"Not particularly convincing."

"Will be glad the opposition didn’t bring their shooting boots."

This is an ongoing trend.

This is the theory of Lucky Zidane.

For some, there is no other theory.

But there is, of course, another train of thought.

While the first concerns itself with Zidane just stumbling upon these solutions and successes while the other one posits whether he is winning with his ability to manage the Real Madrid dressing well, pick the correct XI on a weekly basis amongst a team of superstars well, scout and plan according to the opposition well and solve problems like that of Casemiro’s injury well. By doing all of these well, he is doing his job as Real Madrid manager very, very, very well.

The best ever, actually, after 33 league games with over 81% win percentage. They have played 33 Games and won 27 of them. The only loss has come against Atletico Madrid last year. They are unbeaten so far this season and have won the last six games scoring 20 and conceding just four goals.

They sit six points ahead of Barcelona with a victory against Barcelona this Saturday making it very difficult to seem losing a first La Liga title in five years too. His first year as the coach of the team for the entire season.

They are the kind of figures Florentino Perez like to see.

He has forced a mini-crisis at Atletico Madrid with Diego Simeone being forced to concede that Zidane had exposed a weakness in his side when Isco ran the show against Koke as the Argentine parachuted Tiago back into his starting midfield against Osasuna to regain the control they lacked against an inspired Isco and Real Madrid at the Calderon a week earlier.

He has also managed to figure out a solution to an injury crisis when Casemiro went down and as a result Mateo Kovacic is playing the best football of his short Real Madrid career - starting six in a row in La Liga for the first time.

He has also had to contend with poor form and injuries to his central defenders, rotated when necessary and has even figured out how to win even though Karim Benzema has started the season as bad as he ever has, Ronaldo does not look quite the player he has been in previous years and still might not have an authentic number one for the foreseeable future in Keylor Navas.

There is plenty of evidence to support this theory.

Up north, Luis Enrique appreciated his own luck as Real Sociedad did enough, literally, to beat Barcelona but a perfectly allowed goal was ruled out for offside on Juanmi.

His side were out-passed, outworked and out on their feet with 10 shots to La Real's 18 and conceding possession percentage too. Real Sociedad are a team on the rise and it was a similar thing they did to Atletico Madrid just a few short weeks ago on route to beating them 2-0. Atletico could not get anything going in attack, but there is always a chance when you have Lionel Messi, the speed of Neymar and the hunter-like qualities of Luis Suarez on your team.

This leads to a very strange build-up to the Clasico with both teams trying to play the underdog without us truly knowing whether they actually mean it. Pique conceded that Real Madrid are the best team in the league - this could be propaganda, but he could be speaking the truth.

We have the stats, sure, but what we are seeing with our very eyes is causing an El Clasico cognitive dissonance.

Barcelona - a team that have rarely, if ever, had to rely on luck flying home from San Sebastian and looking out over the Pyrenees counting their lucky stars.

Real Madrid - A team with a manager who says nothing went right for them against Sporting Gijon yet still won while many neutral and Real Madrid fans alike waiting for Zinedine Zidane to come clean and tell everyone where he found the genie’s bottle and what he did with his three wishes.

Off The Ball


The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week