No respite for Zidane

Real Madrid have released the pressure on Zinedine Zidane temporarily, with the next job to fix their dismal start in the Champions League.

Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the Clasico on Saturday swerved a third consecutive defeat after losses to Cadiz in La Liga and Shakhtar Donetsk. But the effects of the implosion against Shakhtar, who had 10 first team players missing due to coronavirus infections, still linger, with Madrid sitting bottom of Group B.

Zidane will know a convincing performance away to Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday should suspend talk of a crisis and dispel doubts about his future, at least for now.Some reports in the Spanish press were even discussing the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino if mistakes were not rectified at Camp Nou.

“I have always been critical of myself, it is what drives you to improve,” said Zidane. “After a loss, as a coach, most of the criticism comes at me and that’s normal.”Zidane routinely sidesteps the issue of his future, which creates a nervousness after he resigned so unexpectedly after winning the Champions League in 2018.

Every slip-up is projected as a slump and any doubts feed the idea Zidane might suddenly depart. “Nothing changes,” he said. “Last year? The same. In my first spell? The same. What I have to do is do my job.”Anything but a win on Tuesday and the cycle begins again.

Can the ‘lifeblood of Inter’ keep flowing?

After Romelu Lukaku scored his eighth and ninth goals of the new season in Inter’s Matchday 1 draw with Gladbach, Gazzetta dello Sport called the Belgian “the lifeblood of Inter, not only for his goals but for his ability to transform every ball he receives into a potential attacking move”. Lukaku also struck twice as Inter beat Matchday 2 opponents Shakhtar 5-0 in last season’s Europa League semifinal in Dussedorf. Will the No. 9 bring his shooting boots to Ukraine?

Moscow beckons for rampant Bayern

Any fears that Bayern might fluff their lines on their return to the UEFA Champions League were dispelled when they mauled Atletico 4-0, extending their epochal European winning streak to 13 games. Los Colchoneros at least stopped Robert Lewandowski scoring — no small achievement given he had hit six in his previous two Bundesliga matches. Lokomotiv Moscow will note that Bayern won 5-0 when they last met the Railwaymen in Moscow, in the UEFA Cup in 1995.

Can Liverpool figure out Midtjylland?

After Liverpool drew the Danish champions, Jurgen Klopp said that Midtjylland “has been for years one of the most interesting teams”. The club’s focus on mathematical modelling and set pieces has caused a stir; indeed, ex-FCM throw-in expert Thomas Gronnemark now works for the Reds. Atalanta blew Midtjylland’s cool with a 4-0 victory last time out, but Brian Priske’s side could yet add up to be a handful for a Liverpool team still unsettled following centre-back Virgil van Dijk’s long-term injury.

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