Marcelo has urged others to use their platforms to instigate change after taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following his goal against Eibar.

After scoring his team's third goal in Madrid's 3-1 win on Sunday, left-back Marcelo dropped to his knee and raised his right fist.

The idea of taking a knee was adopted by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when the NFL player protested racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.

Kneeling has been prevalent at the protests that have followed the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin players all took a knee prior to their Bundesliga fixture earlier this month, a week after Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram knelt following his goal against Union Berlin.

LaLiga returned for the first time since the coronavirus-enforced break last week and, while revealing his happiness at being back playing, Marcelo also used lyrics from 2Pac's song 'Changes' when addressing his celebration.

"Happy to be back with Real Madrid!" Marcelo wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of him kneeling.

"Happy to have scored a goal!

"But even happier to see all the CHANGES in the world! Now it's time. We must use the power we have and start making real CHANGES."

Marcelo then quoted 2Pac: "We can never go nowhere unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin' changes.

"Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers. And that's how it's supposed to be...

"I'd love to go back to when we played as kids but things change, and that's the way it is..."

Kylian Mbappe may have to leave Paris Saint-Germain and flourish in a more competitive league to fulfil his potential, according to Real Madrid star Luka Modric.

Still only 21, Mbappe has won four Ligue 1 titles, the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue, while he became a World Cup champion with France two years ago.

Madrid have long since been linked with a move for Mbappe, which would see the striker work under the tutelage of France and Los Blancos great Zinedine Zidane.

Over the weekend, PSG's sporting director Leonardo said he does not foresee Mbappe or superstar team-mate Neymar leaving in the next transfer window.

But Modric believes Mbappe may need a move if he is to become the dominant player in world football.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Modric said: "Mbappe has everything to dominate the scene, but I think that to make the leap in quality he needs to go to a championship in which his team does not win so easily. 

"I also see great potential in Vinicius Jr and I like [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Raheem] Sterling."

Mbappe still has the opportunity to become a Champions League winner this season, with the completion of the competition set to take place in August having been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Modric recognises PSG, who were named Ligue 1 champions after the remainder of the competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, as a contender for the Champions League, in which Madrid must overcome a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Manchester City in the last 16 to remain in the hunt. 

"In the Champions League I see PSG going well, even if they won't play until August," he added. 

"Then it's easy to say Barcelona and Bayern. Watch out for Atletico Madrid and of course among the favourites there will be those who pass between the City and us at Real."

Cristiano Ronaldo always motivated Real Madrid to win and Los Blancos miss his goals and character, says Luka Modric.

Portugal great Ronaldo became Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer during nine prolific and trophy-laden seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu between 2009 and 2018.

Madrid sanctioned a big-money sale to Juventus after winning a third Champions League title in as many years, and fourth in five seasons, and Los Blancos stumbled in their first campaign without their talisman in 2018-19.

This season, which was disrupted for three months by the coronavirus pandemic, remains on a knife-edge. Madrid are second in LaLiga and two points behind leaders Barcelona, while they trail 2-1 in their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City.

Modric, who briefly interrupted the Ronaldo-Lionel Messi monopoly of the Ballon d'Or by winning the prestigious individual prize in 2018, concedes the absence of Ronaldo's qualities have been felt.

"Talking about the player seems trivial to me - he is among the best ever," Modric told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We missed his goals and character at Real. Cristiano always wants to win, he motivated us and made us react. 

"As a person then he is 10. He has a big heart and is always ready to help those in need."

Modric, now 34, has seen his future in the Spanish capital become the subject of debate over the past 12 months and he was strongly linked with a move to Inter in the close season.

However, more recent reports suggested he will see out the rest of his Madrid deal that runs until the end of the 2020-21 season.

Modric believes he can continue to compete at the highest level and wants to end his career at Madrid.

"I'm sure I can play at a high level for two more years, then we'll see. I would like to end my career at Real, but it will also depend on the club," he added. 

"Of course, I'll do the coaching course. For us, the national team is a feeling above football, both as a player and as a coach I'd be honored to be there."

Jadon Sancho has been linked to Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid among others.

Sancho is reportedly looking to leave Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

But a reunion with former club Manchester City could be on the cards for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO WILLING TO RE-JOIN CITY

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is open to returning to Manchester City, according to The Sun.

Sancho is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season amid strong links to Manchester United, as well as Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

However, Sancho is believed to be willing to re-join City – the club he left for Dortmund in 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- With uncertainty over Sancho, United could turn to Jack Grealish. The Daily Star says Aston Villa captain Grealish has his heart set on moving to Old Trafford.

Tottenham want to sign Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva, reports The Sun. Silva is set to leave the Ligue 1 champions on a free transfer and Jose Mourinho is keen to bring the Brazil defender to Spurs. Arsenal and Everton are also eyeing the 35-year-old.

- Corriere della Sera says Gianluigi Donnarumma is ready to extend his contract with Milan, though the new deal could include a €60million release clause. The Italy international goalkeeper has previously been linked to the likes of Juventus, Madrid, PSG and United.

- Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini is committed to staying at the capital club despite reported interest from Juve, United and PSG, claims Sky Sport Italia and Tuttomercatoweb.

Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, according to Cadena COPE. Atletico are determined to renew Partey's contract but the LaLiga side are resigned to losing the Ghana international – who has also been linked to United.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is planning to "take it slowly" with Marco Asensio, but said the midfielder would have a role to play this season.

Asensio was an unused substitute as Madrid returned to action with a 3-1 LaLiga victory over Eibar on Sunday.

The 24-year-old suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season but is now available for Madrid, who moved back within two points of rivals and league leaders Barcelona.

Zidane has no plans to rush Asensio, but said he would be using the Spain international.

"We're happy to have Marco back available and we'll take it slowly," he said.

"We have lots of players, Asensio is in good shape and I'm going to use him. I wasn't able to today, but there are other games to come and he has to be ready just like any other player.

"I'll be counting on him."

Madrid are in action again with a clash against Valencia on Thursday.

Zinedine Zidane was happy to see Eden Hazard impress as Real Madrid made a winning return in LaLiga, saying the Belgium star was even glad to have endured some robust challenges.

Hazard started the match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Sunday as Madrid won 3-1 against Eibar to move back to within two points of league leaders Barcelona.

Injury problems have blighted Hazard's first season at the club since his €100million move from Chelsea and there were concerns his campaign was over when he fractured his ankle in February.

The coronavirus-enforced break gave the forward more time to recover and he looked sharp in the first half against Eibar, setting up Sergio Ramos for the second goal and playing a key role in Marcelo's third.

Hazard was on the receiving end of some strong challenges and was substituted after 61 minutes, but head coach Zidane had few concerns.

"We knew Eden would lack a bit of rhythm to play the whole game. In the end, he played an hour and played well, too," he said.

"They gave him a good knock, a scare, but that's football. He said he was fine at the break, that he was glad he had been hit, and wasn't afraid. He's happy with what he did and we're happy, also."

Toni Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute as Madrid dominated the first half, but their standards slipped after the break and Eibar threatened to make life difficult after Pedro Bigas deflected in a shot from Pablo De Blasis.

"It's a completely different thing to what we were experiencing before. We have to adapt," said Zidane.

"We started the game well, but it was difficult in the second half. I don't think it was physical, because we are well prepared. It was a bit of everything.

"I'll take the first half – that was dominant. It's an important win.

"Maybe we relaxed in the second. There was no one thing in particular. We had to make the changes: [Dani] Carvajal sprained his ankle, Ramos had discomfort too, Hazard because he hadn't played for a long time... I don't think it was the changes that made the game change."

Karim Benzema looked particularly sharp and combined well with Hazard in the first half, leading to a question as to whether the forward has followed a particular diet to come back in such lean shape.

"I don't know his diet, but Karim takes great care of himself, like most players," said Zidane. "He's happy to play again. I hope he keeps it up – we need him.

"It's wonderful to see them communicate and I have to talk mostly about the second goal, which came from a pass from Eden to Ramos."

Sergio Ramos sent a warning to Barcelona after Real Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga action on Sunday.

The club captain was among the goalscorers as Madrid beat Eibar 3-1 at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to move back to within two points of league leaders Barca, who won 4-0 at Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Toni Kroos and Marcelo scored either side of Ramos in a strong first-half display from the home side, but they were less convincing after the break and conceded when Pedro Bigas deflected a Pablo De Blasis shot past Thibaut Courtois.

Ramos went off after 61 minutes with what he described as "a little knock", which did not help Madrid's cause, but the centre-back was still pleased with the way they returned to action three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be suspended.

"I'm happy with the three points and to start playing again," he said to LaLiga. "We've got 10 more finals and we'll give it everything we've got.

"It was a bit strange for everybody after a tough time for everyone, I want to send, as captain, high spirits to everyone. It has been a strange situation, not being able to go out of the house, but we always have to bring positive things out of bad things.

"To get football back is happiness for the whole country. Everything is returning to its natural place, it's important for everybody – us as well – to get back out on the pitch.

"I think we did well, we worked hard over the last few weeks to come back and to keep the form that maybe we've lost over the last couple of months. We are back and playing in the best possible way, there are a lot of things we can improve but physically we were good.

"The first 45 minutes, we showed good intensity and got the goals to go ahead. A bit less intense in the second half, but that will be something for us to learn from and improve. In general, we were good, we've got things to improve and are happy to get the three points. We will now prepare for the next game in the best way."

Marcelo marked his goal in Real Madrid's 3-1 LaLiga win over Eibar by taking a knee in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Brazil full-back drilled home brilliantly to put Madrid 3-0 up in the first half of Sunday's match, which marked Los Blancos' first since the resumption of Spanish football following its suspension for the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcelo raised his right fist in the air and dropped his left knee. Taking a knee is an action that was used by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and has become synonomous with anti-racism and prejudice protests, particularly in the United States.

The gesture has been prominent since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Madrid, who were playing the game at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at their Valdebebas training complex, went on to win 3-1 and are two points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Real Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga action as they beat Eibar 3-1 in the Spanish capital on Sunday.

Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo eased Madrid into a comfortable half-time lead, with the visitors' second-half improvement yielding nothing but a Pedro Bigas consolation.

With Barcelona having won 4-0 at Real Mallorca a day earlier, the pressure was on Los Blancos to follow suit and close the gap at the top of the table back to two points.

Madrid's home games are being held at the Castilla's Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium while the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes renovation work, but the change in venue made little difference as the home side marked Zinedine Zidane's 200th game in charge in winning fashion.

Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute with a sublime first-time strike from just inside the box that looped beyond goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.

Eibar responded well but were 2-0 down after half an hour. Ramos stepped out to intercept a pass and spark a swift counter-attacking move that ended with the Madrid captain tapping in an unselfish square ball from the impressive Eden Hazard, who was back in the line-up for the first time since February after recovering from an ankle fracture.

A crisp strike from Marcelo into the bottom-right corner after more good interplay between Hazard and Karim Benzema made it 3-0 before the break, the Brazil left-back taking a knee after drilling home his first league goal of the season.

Thibaut Courtois saved superbly from Edu Exposito and Sergi Enrich hit the bar with a header, before Pablo De Blasis' shot deflected off Bigas and bobbled beyond Courtois to give Eibar a lifeline.

It was a largely pedestrian second half from Madrid, with Hazard and Ramos taken off and Marcelo struggling with a knock, but Eibar could not mount a comeback.

 

What does it mean? Title race shows few signs of fizzling out

Resounding wins apiece for Barca and Madrid mean the gap at the top is only two points with 10 games to go and neither side is looking especially rusty after the long break.

This was certainly a display to show Zidane's men will not give up the chase without a fight and will also serve as a useful reminder to Manchester City before the Champions League last-16 returns.

Eibar are just two points above the bottom three, having won just once in eight league matches.

Hazard and Benzema in harmony

Injury has ruined much of Hazard's first season in LaLiga, but this display was a sign that he plans to make the most of the coming few weeks.

His link play with Benzema was excellent, particularly in the first half, and should have given Zidane plenty of encouragement.

Who is left for the right?

Rodrygo started the match, Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior came on, Isco, James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio stayed on the bench, and we are still unclear who is Madrid's best option on the right wing.

That kind of depth will prove useful in the hectic schedule to come but settling on a first-choice front three would help bring balance to a Madrid attack that has often struggled this season.

What's next?

Madrid host Valencia on Thursday before heading to Real Sociedad three days later. For Eibar, a home match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday awaits.

Eden Hazard was named in Real Madrid's starting XI for their LaLiga return against Eibar on Sunday.

The Belgium forward has endured a stop-start campaign in the Spanish capital since joining from Chelsea in a big-money move ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Hazard suffered an ankle fracture in November, ruling him out for almost three months, and cracked his fibula shortly after returning.

The latter injury would have left Hazard facing a battle to be fit again before the end of the campaign but the coronavirus-enforced suspension of LaLiga allowed him extra time to recover.

Zinedine Zidane consequently included Hazard in the line-up to face Eibar for a match that is taking place behind closed doors at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium at Madrid's Valdebebas training base.

Rodrygo was given the nod to support Hazard and Karim Benzema in attack over Gareth Bale, Isco, Vinicius Jr and Marco Asensio – the latter not included in the matchday squad despite once again being available after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury in pre-season.

Marcelo was selected at left-back ahead of Ferland Mendy.

Zidane is taking charge of his 200th Madrid game, the third head coach to reach the milestone with Los Blancos after Miguel Munoz and Vicente del Bosque.

Barcelona will face Atletico Madrid in a pivotal match for their LaLiga title bid on June 30.

LaLiga clubs began to confirm their fixture dates across matchdays 32, 33 and 34 on Sunday.

Leaders Barca, who returned to action with a thumping 4-0 win over Real Mallorca on Saturday, are poised to play three games in the space of nine days.

They will travel to play Celta Vigo at Balaidos on June 27, before a home clash on the following Tuesday with Atletico, whose city rivals Real Madrid will be hoping to see Barca drop points.

A late Lionel Messi goal saw Barca triumph 1-0 over Atletico in December's reverse fixture.

Following the Atletico clash, Barca are away to Villarreal on July 5.

That trio of matches comes after key clashes with Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao as part of a pivotal stint of the season.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, are on the road against Espanyol on matchday 32, with the exact date yet to be confirmed.

They play at home to Getafe in their next contest before a testing away meeting with Athletic.

Manchester United may be getting closer to finding a way to land Ajax star Donny van de Beek.

Van de Beek has been linked to numerous European giants after impressing with the Eredivisie outfit.

United are among them and the Premier League side could be ready to make a sacrifice to bring the Netherlands international to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD FIND WAY TO LAND VAN DE BEEK

Manchester United will sell Andreas Pereira to bring in Van de Beek, according to the Mirror.

Van de Beek has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, but United could beat the LaLiga giants to the midfielder.

The 23-year-old has managed double-digits in goals in three straight seasons, netting 10 times in 37 games in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and Manchester United may keep Alexis Sanchez. On loan at Inter this season, Sanchez is contracted at United until 2022 and the Mirror says the Chile international could stay at the club if he accepts a squad role over being first choice.

- Barcelona are said to be struggling to find a suitor for Philippe Coutinho. Marca reports no clubs have made a move for the playmaker so far.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is being linked with an Arsenal exit. However, The Sun says the Premier League club are willing to sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles to fund a new contract for Aubameyang, or find the forward's replacement. Aubameyang's deal at Arsenal expires next year.

- Several clubs are reportedly eyeing RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. Tuttosport says Arsenal are favourites to land the 21-year-old ahead of Milan. Staying at Arsenal and La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Justin Kluivert could join the club from Roma, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – on loan at the Serie A club this season – heading permanently in the opposite direction.

- Speculation continues around Achraf Hakimi. Marca reports Bayern Munich are keeping an eye on the defender's situation, with the 21-year-old on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid this season.

- Juventus could be preparing to sell Aaron Ramsey. The Mirror reports Tottenham are one of several clubs to have been offered the chance to sign the midfielder.

Paul Pogba will not leave Manchester United in the next transfer window despite continuous speculation regarding his future, according to the midfielder's "close" friend Adnan Januzaj.

Pogba, who played alongside Januzaj in United's academy, returned to the Premier League club from Juventus in 2016 for a then-world record fee of £90million.

However, his critics have accused him of not justifying that price tag, with his form somewhat inconsistent.

Injury problems have restricted the Frenchman to just seven Premier League appearances this season, while he and his agent Mino Raiola have not been shy in hinting at a desire for a move away.

But with United reportedly adamant they will not entertain the prospect of Pogba leaving, his former team-mate Januzaj, now at Real Sociedad, is confident the midfielder will remain at Old Trafford.

Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Januzaj said: "I think he will stay. Paul and I are still close.

"We have known each other since we were kids when we were in the United academy. Our families are also friends and we all keep in touch. That will never change."

Pogba has been linked with a potential move to Real Madrid for much of his second spell with United, where he has a contract until next year - though the club hold an option to extend it until 2022.

Los Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane has said he is a keen admirer of his compatriot.

Pogba suffered successive ankle problems earlier in the season, but with the coronavirus-enforced suspension leading to a three-month pause, the 27-year-old has been able to restore his fitness.

He is now expected to play a major role for United in the remaining weeks of the Premier League season, teaming up with new signing Bruno Fernandes in midfield for the first time.

United resume their campaign away to Tottenham on Friday.

Zinedine Zidane is thrilled to have Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio fully fit again following significant injury lay-offs, but he could not guarantee Luka Jovic will recover before the end of the season.

Hazard and Asensio have both had miserable seasons, with the Belgium international enduring a continued battle with fitness problems, while the Spaniard is yet to make an appearance after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in a pre-season friendly.

Hazard suffered an ankle fracture in November, ruling him out for almost three months, and he then cracked his fibula shortly after returning.

Had the season not have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the former Chelsea star – who joined Madrid in a reported €100million deal last year – would have been expected to be out for at least another eight weeks.

But, as Madrid prepare to return to action at home to Eibar on Sunday, Zidane confirmed both Hazard and Asensio are available once again, potentially a significant boost as Los Blancos attempt to chase down pacesetters Barcelona, who go to Real Mallorca later on Saturday with a two-point lead.

"The good thing is they had the same time to prepare as the rest of the team," Zidane told reporters on Saturday.

"Asensio's injury was a bit more serious and required longer rehabilitation, but both are available, they'll be there for the team to help us and it's good news to have them back."

Zidane was again asked about Hazard's condition and the Frenchman affirmed the winger is completely recovered, though Jovic may not return anytime soon.

The Serbian forward broke his foot in May and Zidane was unable to guarantee he would be able to play again in what has been a disappointing first season at the Santiago Bernabeu for the former Eintracht Frankfurt star.

"On Hazard, I'm happy he's back and fully fit, he has re-joined the group and he can play and help us. The bad news is Jovic's injury," he said.

"He injured himself at home. It was unfortunate, obviously, because now it will keep him away from the pitch.

"We don't know for how long for, but we'll see. It's bad news of course – we hope he is back as soon as possible and before the season is over."

One of the new temporary measures brought in for the end of the season following the enforced hiatus is a substitutions increase from three to five.

Critics have suggested this will benefit the bigger clubs with deeper squads, though Zidane does not see it making a major difference to anyone.

"I don't think anyone will benefit immensely," he added. "It's a different rule, we have to adapt to it and if we have five substitutes then we'll adapt to that.

"As I say, I have 23 players available and I'll try to adapt to it. The circumstances are strange and obviously we have to take that into account, but we adapt to whatever we need to adapt to. We're ready for everything."

The return of LaLiga will be particularly special for Real Madrid as it will see Zinedine Zidane reach 200 games as head coach.

The former midfielder, now in his second spell in the dugout, is third on the all-time list of matches in charge of Los Blancos in all competitions, behind only Vicente del Bosque (246) and Miguel Munoz (605).

Few could argue against Zidane's achievements. Once the best footballer in the world, he guided Madrid to three consecutive Champions League triumphs – an unprecedented feat in the modern competition – along with seven other trophies, including two UEFA Super Cups, two Supercopas de Espana, two Club World Cups and the 2016-17 LaLiga title.

He has also won 131 of his 199 matches as Madrid boss, a record few contemporaries can match in European football. Add a few more to that tally before the end of this season, and a second LaLiga title could follow – provided they can overhaul Barcelona's two-point advantage at the top.

There are, however, some reasons to be concerned. While few Madridistas dispute Zidane's pedigree, there is an undeniable decline in the numbers since he first took over from Rafael Benitez in January 2015.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the state of play...

A SLIPPERY SLOPE

In simple terms, Madrid's results are, on average, on the decline.

Zidane secured 21 victories from 27 games in all competitions after taking charge in January 2016 – a win rate of 77.7 per cent. That has dropped year on year and now stands at 54 per cent if you combine the 11 games of last season, when he took over from Santiago Solari, and 39 games in 2019-20.

Defeats have crept up in number, from just two in 2015-16 to six this term, the peak being nine in 62 games in 2017-18.

Few were surprised when Solari was sacked last term, but he actually managed  22 wins from 32 games – a rate of 68.7 – and averaged more goals per game ( 2.21 compared to 1.86 ) than Zidane has since.

A BLUNT FORCE

Madrid fans have a certain expectation when it comes to attacking football, but those demands are not being fully satisfied.

Zidane's side averaged 2.6 goals per game in his first 27 matches in charge and that increased to 2.8 in 2016-17, when they scored 173 times in all competitions en route to a league and Champions League double. In the 50 games since his return last year, that average has dropped to 1.86.

Madrid's shot conversion rate during Zidane's second spell is 11.52 , again the lowest it has been with him in charge. So too are shots per game ( 16.14 ) and shots on target per game ( 6.16 ).

The obvious factor here is the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left for Juventus in 2018, but Madrid have also spent this season largely without Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard, while Luka Jovic has been a big disappointment. The burden has fallen almost solely on the shoulders of Karim Benzema, who has scored a commendable 19 in all competitions this term and created more chances than anyone else in LaLiga ( 44 ).

ON SOLID GROUND

It does seem the attack is where the problems lie. Defensively, Madrid are coping well enough.

Captain Sergio Ramos is now 34 and Marcelo appears past his best, but their defensive strength as a whole is on a similar level to previous seasons.

Since Zidane's return, Madrid have faced 9.4 shots per game on average, with 3.3 of those on target. Both of those are the lowest such figures seen under the Frenchman.

Madrid have only conceded 19 goals in LaLiga in 2019-20, which is the best record in the division. They are letting in fewer than a goal a game on average for the first time since 2015-16.

A few more goals at the other end could swing the season back in their favour.

PASSING THE BUCK

If the attack is to get firing again, better use of the ball is paramount.

Madrid average 58.39 per cent of possession in their games this season, which is in line with years gone by, as is their passing accuracy and passes-per-game rate. It's what they do with the ball that holds them back.

Including assists, they have created 635 chances since Zidane's return – a rate of 12.7 per game. That's the lowest it has been since before 2016.

Again, personnel problems have counted against Zidane. Hazard was signed from Chelsea for €100million to fill a creative void, but injuries have ruined his first season in Spain. Likewise, Asensio has been out since last May, James Rodriguez is out of favour, Isco has been in and out of the team and Luka Modric's top-level career looks to be winding down. Federico Valverde has been a revelation in midfield, but playmaking is not his forte.

It's not all doom and gloom, and it's certainly not all Zidane's fault, but he has some work to do if this is to be remembered as a successful – if strange – season, and if his next 200 games are to herald similar glory as his first.

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