Real Madrid have spent years resolving matches with at least one goal score guaranteed in every game - a goal scored by Cristiano. I’m exaggerating just a little but it’s not that far from the truth. Cristiano used to average a goal per game – always - whether the team were lacking inspiration, played well or played really well. But that goal per game is no longer a dead cert. He’s still averaging that ratio in the Champions League but not in LaLiga, where he has been struggling to make his mark. Even so, he’s still a force for Madrid – all of the team’s best attempts on goal come from him. But either the keeper saves them, they whistle just wide or strike the post. It was another one of those nights for Cristiano at San Mamés. The ball just wouldn’t enter, Madrid ended up drawing the game and lost a great opportunity to make up some ground on Barça who were held at Camp Nou earlier that afternoon.
Madrid miss their cue
It was a golden opportunity. Barça had drawn their last two games and that had created a sense of euphoria for the teams chasing them. For Madrid in particular, it was a chance to put them in a position where they depend solely on themselves. Yesterday, between the final whistle at Camp Nou and kick-off at San Mamés you could hear people doing their calculations: if Madrid beat Athletic, and win both Clásicos, LaLiga is in the bag... But Athletic’s courage, Madrid’s inefficiency in front of goal and Sergio Ramos’ sending off just when the Bilbaínos were starting to flag put paid to those predictions. Madrid haven’t made headway on the leaders, Atlético who took their chance have pulled away from them, and Sevilla have leapfrogged them in the standings. And it’s Valencia’s turn to play later today.
Zidane seems to have no faith in his subs
Zidane puts it down to a lack of goals, but that in itself is a consequence of something which isn’t working as it was before and the coach doesn’t know how to remedy it. It’s quite clear that he doesn’t have a great deal of faith in the players on the bench, and less in those who were there last season, when other, more reliable players were still at the club. Even Cristiano regrets their departure, because he can see what’s happened. A first choice XI isn’t the same when there is no pressure from the subs’ bench. Meanwhile, Simeone is jostling his team and getting a reaction. Zidane appears to be banking on Bale’s return, which every time it seems to be near, is prolonged another week.