Real Madrid news: Zinedine Zidane can’t allow Diego Simeone to get the better of him in Madrid derby
Friday night’s Madrid derby in New Jersey might only be Zinedine Zidane’s third warm-up match of the summer but it could set the tone for the start of the season and cast further doubts on what is being called his ‘no-revolution’ at the club.
At the end of the season most supporters expected a radical overhaul under the coach who led them to three Champions Leagues and a league title in his last spell at the club but so far the team looks remarkably like Zidane’s old side.
He has stunted the progress of certain younger players, blocked the purchase of another midfielder because he is insisting on Paul Pogba or no one, kept absolute faith in Karim Benzema, and – with the exception of Gareth Bale – stuck with his former players such as Isco, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Marcelo.
Zinedine Zidane (left) must not allow Diego Simeone (right) to get the better of him on Friday
Injuries have not been kind and have robbed him of Marco Asensio and Ferland Mendy – who is out for a month, making Marcelo’s continued existence in the first team less controversial.
If Atletico win on Friday night in New Jersey then serious questions will be asked about the direction Zidane’s project is taking and it will not be the first time that a reverse against the neighbours sets the tone for a bad start to the season.
Real Madrid’s first competitive match last year was against Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup. They lost the match and coach Julen Lopetegui did not make it to Christmas.
A lot happened between him losing out in Estonia and him being fired – not least a heavy league defeat to Barcelona, but that still felt like an important failure to beat down the upstart neighbours.
Zidane has endured a rocky start to his pre-season preparations and he must not lose on Friday
Marcos Asensio is carried off on a stretcher after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury
The game in the MetLife Stadium on Friday has enough sub-plots to cast a dark shadow on Real Madrid if they all go against the French coach.
There are three players on the Atletico Madrid team who all could have been in Real Madrid white on Friday.
Alvaro Morata has long been away but centre-back Mario Hermoso and midfielder Marcos Llorente could both have been added to the Real Madrid revolution but Zidane wanted neither of them.
Madrid had a buy-back option on Hermoso who was at Espanyol last season. Instead of exercising it Madrid chose to cash in – taking a cut from the sale of the player from Espanyol to Atletico.
Mario Hermoso (R) and Marcos Llorente (L) were unwanted by Zidane and went to Atletico
A defeat with Llorente (left) pulling the strings for Atletico would put the pressure on Zidane
Midfielder Llorente was one of Real Madrid’s star performers last season. That is not saying a great deal, taking into account the generally low standard from almost everyone, but it still had most Real Madrid supporters believing that he would be the future of the team’s defensive midfield.
Zidane had other ideas and told the club to sell the youngster.
If Llorente and Hermoso star in an Atletico Madrid win it will cast further doubts over Zidane’s judgement so far this season.
Questions are already being asked about why he seems to have so little faith in Vinicius Junior – another of the bright lights from last season.
Supporters might also start asking about the decision to sell James Rodriguez and recall that it is Atletico that look favourites to sign the Colombian.
Questions are already being asked about why Zidane has so little faith in Vinicius Junior
Atletico Madrid could start next season with as many as five former Real Madrid players if Morata, Rodriguez and former youth teamer Saul Niguez are added to Hermoso and Llorente.
They will also have former Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier in their back four and Chelsea old-boy pair Morata and Diego Costa leading the attack, possibly at the expense of Joao Felix. He might have to start on the bench despite his £114million record-breaking move from Benfica.
Diego Simeone has brought in eight new players this summer. Asked about competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona, Diego Simeone said in the build-up to the game: ‘I never look at the other teams.’
He knows that is not true. He also knows that if it were true the club’s owners and supporters would not be happy.
Atletico boss Simeone insisted that he ‘never looks at other teams’ when competing for La Liga
Joao Felix (right) might have to start on the bench despite his £114million move from Benfica
The reason eight new players have been signed with the money for Antoine Griezmann, Rodri and Lucas all being reinvested is precisely so they compete with the big two in Spain.
Zidane must not allow Simeone to get the better of him in New Jersey. He will be hoping for a morale-boosting win, a goal from Benzema, who has so far yet to score this season, and no more injuries on Friday night.
A defeat with Llorente pulling the strings from midfield for Atletico, a good substitute performance from Bale who Zidane still resists playing from the start, would mean the pressure starts to build on the coach who came back to the club towards the end of last season and has so far been frustrated in the middle of his own ‘no-revolution’.