Real Madrid’s UCL hopes ride on Zinedine Zidane finding the right combination up front

Zinedine Zidane slinked past a steward and disappeared down the tunnel when the final whistle sounded at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night. He knew what most of us watching knew; Real Madrid had dodged a bullet.

The Frenchman figured that while Real Madrid had done their job by qualifying themselves for the last four of the Champions League, they weren’t part of the narrative any longer; at least not on the night. Zidane doesn’t care much for narratives and loves when he’s not a part of it. This particular script’s final scene did not involve Cristiano Ronaldo’s bulging muscles, or Real Madrid at all really.

As the credits got set to roll at the Bernabeu, shop nfl jerseys online we had a showdown between Gianluigi Buffon and referee Michael Oliver. Real Madrid became secondary. And Zidane had work to do.

The reason he disappeared down the tunnel was because he was far from happy with what he had just witnessed and because he knows he has problems that he is struggling to find answers for. The team is laden with talent but riddled with problems. It’s better to have one obvious nadir opposed to several contenders and this Real Madrid side continues to offer up examples of their poor form.

They are not operating in a plug-and-play system and one change can mean an entire shift of system and style. They have several square pegs and an ocean of round holes and Zidane is faced with problems regardless of who he starts. It is intruding on their confidence and the lack of consistent minutes doesn’t help either.

The synergy between Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Isco is way off and Bale was hauled off after an uninspiring 45 minutes. Zidane insisted that he changed Bale and Casemiro in order to alter the dynamic of the game. “I took Bale off because I had to make a change,” he said after the game when the inevitable questions arrived, “I wasn’t happy with the plan. It wasn’t an issue with Bale or Case, but I had to make a change”.

For all of Zidane’s savvy in news conferences and his ability to answer endless questions about Bale and the rest, he is yet to figure out the gestalt psychology of this team. Maybe, just maybe, with Karim Benzema in his starting XI, the whole gets close to being as much as the sum of its parts. Zidane has been telling us for weeks and months now of Benzema’s importance. Maybe he believed what he was saying, cheap nfl jersey shop or was trying to coax his compatriot out of what he says is a “rough time of it” recently. Based on what we saw last night, the French manager does not see Bale as a striker, needs to accommodate Ronaldo’s new life as a No. 9 and needs to adapt.