Real Madrid facing difficult season – Zidane issues warning after last-gasp draw

By Sports Desk October 27, 2020

Zinedine Zidane predicted a difficult season for Real Madrid after Casemiro's 93rd-minute goal spared the stuttering LaLiga holders an embarrassing Champions League defeat at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Marcus Thuram's brace gave hosts Gladbach the lead at Borussia-Park but late strikes from Karim Benzema and Casemiro averted a record fourth consecutive European loss for Madrid with a 2-2 draw on Tuesday.

Gladbach became the 30th different opponent Benzema has scored against in the Champions League – only Lionel Messi (36), and Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul (both 33) have scored against more teams in the competition's history.

The comeback did little to paper over the cracks in a chaotic Madrid performance that was strewn with defensive mistakes against the Bundesliga side.

Despite seeing Madrid struggle for the second time in as many Champions League games, following a 3-2 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk the previous week, head coach Zidane defended his players.

"We didn't think this would be such a drama," Zidane told reporters. "But my team showed that they know how to react.

"I thought we were very good in the first half. The big pain is that we committed a serious error in how we conceded their first goal.

"But this final result is just another demonstration of the character my team has. We always play to win and show the hunger to win. No way were we happy with the draw."

The result leaves Madrid with one win, one draw, and two defeats from their last four games in all competitions, and Zidane must prepare for back-to-back home games against Huesca in LaLiga and Inter in the Champions League.

Failure to take maximum points in those games could leave the Frenchman's position under threat but Zidane said the character shown by his players left him confident.

"We didn't transform the possession we enjoyed into proper chances," said Zidane, whose Madrid avoided defeat in a Champions League away fixture having trailed by two goals for the first time since December 2006.

"What I'll take from this experience is how these players reacted. This was a very important point to secure.

"This is going to be a difficult year for everyone, but I'm proud of my team tonight. Playing like this we'll go through the group to the next round without any doubt."

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    Lyon won a fifth consecutive European crown in August, beating Wolfsburg in the final, and they are unsurprisingly set to be at the forefront of FIFA's end-of-year awards ceremony.

    Of the 11 players on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women's Player, five played for Lyon last season.

    Lucy Bronze - third in this category last year and second in the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin - has since moved on to Manchester City but makes the cut alongside a host of former team-mates.

    Dzsenifer Marozsan was second in 2018, the same year she finished third for the Ballon d'Or, and will now compete against Delphine Cascarino, Saki Kumagai and Wendie Renard.

    Chelsea have three contenders in Pernille Harder (signed from Wolfsburg), Ji So-yun and Sam Kerr, while Caroline Graham Hansen and Jennifer Hermoso represent Barcelona. Viviane Miedema is in for Arsenal.

    Such is the depth of Lyon's squad that Ada Hegerberg - the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, then third behind Marozsan in the FIFA voting - is not in the running this year having been out since January with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

    Although Lyon have continued to win regardless, their four-year, 80-game unbeaten Division 1 Feminine streak was ended by Paris Saint-Germain last week.

    Sarah Bouhaddi, who conceded the only goal in that game, is up for The Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper as the sixth Lyon player honoured.

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    The French giants' Jean-Luc Vasseur is among seven nominees for The Best FIFA Women's Coach after a successful first season in charge at OL.

    Future England coach Sarina Wiegman, the 2017 award winner who finished second in the subsequent two years, is also in contention.

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    The Bayern Munich superstar fired his side to the treble in 2019-20 and has continued his outstanding form at the start of the new season.

    With no Ballon d'Or this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA's award represents Lewandowski's best chance of recognition for a standout year.

    He has tough competition in the form of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and four Liverpool players, but the 32-year-old must surely be considered the frontrunner.

    Lewandowski's potential success in this category would be built on Bayern's Champions League triumph and Opta data in that competition since the start of last season helps make his case.

    LEADING THE WAY

    Virgil van Dijk ran Messi close in 2019, but this year's top honour surely belongs to an attacker - particularly with the Liverpool centre-back and Sergio Ramos playing just eight and seven games respectively over this span due to injury and suspension.

    Lewandowski is therefore the obvious choice. He has scored 17 goals in 13 games; for contrast, Messi has six goals and Ronaldo five.

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    For balance, Ramos is the leading scorer among defenders in this period, netting three goals.

    MISSED THE CUT

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