Producing their worst performance of what is beginning to feel like a problematic season, Real Madrid drew away 0-0 with 16th placed Athletic Bilbao today. Ironically, fielding a team whose entire line-up is World Cup bound next summer seemed not enough for Real against one that has three players, at most, heading to Russia in 2018.
Bilbao consistently stymied Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane’s ineffective line-up controlling the game’s outcome if not match possession. The hosts played for the win most of the match and kept things pretty even with their superior opponent, but when the predicted torrential rain arrived Bilbao opted for, and earned, the draw.
In a weekend when Barcelona had earlier dropped points at home in a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo, and Atletico Madrid had won 2-1 at home over Real Sociedad, on an 88th minute Antoine Griezmann goal, Real Madrid needed a big-score win to leapfrog their city rivals on goal differential and close the gap with the table leaders to six points, with two Clasicos still on tap. That was not to be. Real is now tied with Sevilla at 28 points a piece but ahead on goal differential.
For the umpteenth time Zidane decided to play a useless Karim Benzema only to find himself, as always, substituting for him in the latter stages of the game (82nd minute this time) as if that were helpful to a by then deflated Madrid. Game statistics would show that the number of connections between the Frenchman and his striker partner, Cristiano Ronaldo, throughout the entire match, amounted to zero.
Why the speedy, energetic, and offensive minded midfielder, Marco Asensio, who routinely scores wonder goals and seems to fit right in with all of Spain’s national team stars, is not good enough to get off the bench for Zidane is beyond any comprehension. To this day, no other substitute that the Real coach has brought in has had as a positive effect on a match as Asensio.
We are seeing a repeat of the treatment that led to both Alvaro Morata’s and James Rodriguez’s departures. These are the types of managerial decisions that can destroy a team (see Jose Morinho’s tenure not too long ago), a club’s season (ditto), and the careers of those affected (see Iker Casillas). Yet, it seems no one at Madrid is willing to tell Zidane, let alone Florentino Perez, that they are not wearing any clothes.
To add insult to injury in today’s debacle, Sergio Ramos was rightly judged to have committed a second yellow and was ejected at the 86th. Dani Carvajal and Casemiro also managed to get late yellows and thus accumulated enough cards to ensure Ramos will have company as all three will be suspended for next week’s home match with, wait for it…Sevilla.