Zinedine Zidane insists he is not feeling the pressure of the sack as the Real Madrid coach welcomes back Sergio Ramos for Saturday's Clasico.

Back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk have left Zidane's position under scrutiny and a loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou would only amplify concerns that the team are stagnating.

The 3-2 loss to Shakhtar was particularly chastening, as Madrid fell 3-0 down in the first half to a team missing 10 key first-team players due to an outbreak of coronavirus, marking the first time they let in three goals in the first 45 minutes of a Champions League match in 15 years.

Ramos missed that match through injury but is expected at least to be in the squad this weekend, although Zidane warned he wanted his captain to be at "100 per cent".

Zidane has only lost twice in nine games against Barca as Madrid boss and his side have not conceded a goal in the previous two, with a goalless draw and a 2-0 win in last season's meetings helping Madrid go on to win the LaLiga title.

But with only three wins in all competitions since July 16, doubts have been growing over Zidane's long-term suitability in his second stint in the job, and some reports in Spain suggest Mauricio Pochettino has already been contacted over the prospect of taking charge.

Zidane, though, insists he feels the support of everyone at the club, saying: "Yes, [I feel it from] all of them. Ultimately, I've won many things with these players; they have made me win a lot of things. I will be with these players to the death. They are the ones who fight and run.

"I can see the support, yes. But, for now, what's important for us is to change the mindset. Games are coming for us to change things. Football is beautiful for that. When things get worse, you have to bring out your character and quality."

When asked if his future is at stake, he replied: "That's what is said. Nothing at all has changed. It was the same last year, the same in my first period. It doesn't change.

"What I have to do is my job, give 100 per cent as always and, to the rest, nothing.

"We look at the games. We started badly in the sense that, when they scored, it was tough for us to lift our heads.

"That's football. There are high and low moments and you have to accept them. You have to forget what happened the other day.

"I don't like being a victim or anything. It's a game and each one has its story, and that's the good thing about football. You can go through bad moments and the good thing is you can take that and come back to change the situation.

"I've always been critical of myself. It's the engine to improve. After a defeat, as coach, most of the criticism is for me. And that's normal. But I don't live in the past; I'm interested in what lies ahead."

Zinedine Zidane led Real Madrid to LaLiga glory last season as Los Blancos dethroned bitter rivals Barcelona.

But, Zidane's position is far from certain amid a run of consecutive defeats in 2020-21.

Madrid are reportedly willing to part with their head coach if he cannot arrest the club's slump.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE FACING SACK

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane could be sacked if results do not improve in the team's next two games, according to L'Equipe.

Zidane is under mounting pressure following back-to-back defeats after Madrid were stunned by newly promoted Cadiz in LaLiga and shocked by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

The Frenchman – in his second spell in charge of the Spanish capital club – is facing a crucial period ahead of Saturday's Clasico against Barcelona and a Champions League date with Borussia Monchengladbach.

Madrid great Zidane has guided Los Blancos to two LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies during his time in charge.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Barcelona are ahead of Serie A titleholders Juventus in the race to sign Wolves star Adama Traore. The Spanish speedster has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool and Manchester City.

Manchester United and Chelsea are set to rival Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Gladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, reports Bild.

- Calciomercato reports Milan are looking to sign Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Lovro Majer. The 22-year-old has already been linked with Borussia Dortmund, Fiorentina, Leeds United, Valencia and Sevilla.

The pressure is firmly on Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid heading into Saturday's Clasico at Barcelona.

Madrid were crowned LaLiga champions just three months ago, but recent results have altered the narrative considerably prior to the clash at Camp Nou.

Los Blancos lost to Cadiz in the league last week and then on Wednesday suffered a remarkable Champions League reverse at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk, who were missing 10 first-team players due to coronavirus.

These defeats followed the closing of a transfer window in which Madrid did not make a single signing, leaving Zidane short on options.

The prospect of this campaign quickly crumbling is especially painful for those in the Spanish capital after they appeared set to finally dominate rivals Barca once more...
 

MADRID'S BIG OPPORTUNITY

Madrid won the most recent Clasico in March, but they have not beaten Barca in consecutive LaLiga matches since May 2008.

On that occasion, the Blaugrana promptly appointed Pep Guardiola and became Spain's premier domestic side. Madrid's 2019-20 title was just their third since then, despite their Champions League supremacy.

But this season seemed to represent a chance for Madrid to secure a hold over Barca and stage a successful defence of their championship for the first time since that 2007-08 campaign.

Barca were embarrassed in the Champions League by Bayern Munich late last season, leading to the sacking of Quique Setien, the appointment of Ronald Koeman and subsequent departures of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and of course Lionel Messi's transfer request.

While Messi stayed in the end, the current campaign is widely expected to be his last, meaning Madrid would need only to master the magnificent number 10 and his crisis club one final time.

There was modest investment at Barca, at least topping Madrid's outlay of zero, but the arrivals of Miralem Pjanic and Sergino Dest looked unlikely to turn the tide after the champions ended last season in stunning style.
 

WHERE HAS IT GONE WRONG?

Madrid won 10 straight matches after the 2019-20 season – paused amid COVID-19 – resumed in June, dropping points only in a draw against Leganes on the final day when the title was wrapped up.

A goalless stalemate at Real Sociedad then represented an opening-day setback this term, yet Madrid's form was still relatively steady until the Cadiz match, a 1-0 loss.

Reassessing their start after that defeat, however, shows a clear regression from the end of the previous campaign in one key area: their finishing.

In the final 11 matches of last season, Madrid's shooting accuracy (excluding blocks) only once dipped below 50 per cent – in a 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao – but is yet to reach that mark at all in five games this term.

Against Cadiz, Zidane's side had 74.8 per cent of the ball – more than in any other fixture since June – yet hit the target just twice from 14 attempts.

Crucially, Karim Benzema has gone off the boil. Only he and Federico Valverde have played in all 16 league games since June, the Frenchman scoring seven times from 28 shots at the end of last season, as well as creating six big chances.

In 2020-21, Benzema has netted only once in the league at a conversion rate of 5.3 per cent, while his shot accuracy is down from 72 per cent to 50 per cent and he has already missed as many big chances (three) in five games as he did in 11.
 

IS THERE A SIMPLE FIX?

Given their lack of transfer activity, leaving the squad a little stale, Madrid have no choice but to wait for Benzema to rediscover the form that saw him net 21 times in consecutive seasons following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

There remains no obvious alternative, with Luka Jovic handed another opportunity but so far failing to score and missing his only big chance across three matches. Vinicius Junior has also passed up a trio of clear openings.

The defensive concerns evident against Shakhtar should at least be eased by the return of Sergio Ramos, the captain substituted at half-time at home to Cadiz and then rested in Europe.

Raphael Varane endured another Champions League night to forget in his absence, adding an own goal to his two errors leading to goals in August's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.

In fact, Madrid have now lost seven of their past eight Champions League games without their skipper – also including the trip to City.

This dependence on a 32-year-old Benzema and 34-year-old Ramos must be a cause for concern given Barca were supposed to be the ageing side.

It certainly suggests Madrid might not find life as straightforward as expected as they attempt to step into the void to be left by Messi.

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho jokingly referred to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as French great Zinedine Zidane after praising the midfielder's display in the Europa League victory over LASK.

Spurs opened their Europa League campaign with a 3-0 win at home to LASK thanks to Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min strikes and an Andres Andrade own goal.

Tottenham have won 11 of their last 12 home Europa League group-stage fixtures, drawing once.

Hojbjerg – an off-season signing from Southampton – impressed in London on Thursday, despite requiring stiches following a head clash in the 21st minute as he returned with a bandaged head.

Asked about Hojbjerg and his leadership post-match, Mourinho told reporters: "We were having some laughs at half-time because we were calling him 'Zidane' and saying 'Ok Pierre, take it easy. You tried it once [the double pirouette], don't try to do it again because that's not you'.

"But fantastic player and a player the team needs. That's why we started with him because to be honest we respect LASK and we saw the way they destroyed Sporting in Lisbon and they are much better than what they looked because we were taking it seriously.

"Pierre is a good player and a good leader and he's a captain without the armband. He's a guy who doesn't need the armband like he had in Southampton to influence other people. Very brave. So happy with Pierre."

Carlos Vinicius made his Tottenham debut against Austrian visitors LASK and the loanee caught the eye.

On loan from Portuguese powerhouse Benfica, Brazilian forward Carlos Vinicius supplied two assists and created five chances on his bow for Spurs.

"He played well but he can do better," said Mourinho, whose Tottenham have scored 31 goals in all competitions this season – five more than any other Premier League side. "He is a bit of a shame still, it is not easy not to speak English so the adaption to the group, in spite of having amazing guys that try to make him feel well, is not easy.

"Different football, different way to play, to think, learning the way we press, learning the attacking movements. He is still in a learning process, Vinicius can be much more than this.

"But first match I am really happy, the only thing that was missing was a goal. But we can see he is much more than, he is not selfish, he is a good target man, he can even play with Harry Kane when his good period arrives."

Zinedine Zidane believes he can arrest Real Madrid's form slump and restore order amid growing pressure after the club's shock Champions League loss to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Madrid suffered back-to-back home defeats in all competitions under head coach Zidane for the first time following Wednesday's 3-2 loss against visiting Shakhtar in their Group B opener, having been stunned 1-0 by newly promoted Cadiz in LaLiga at the weekend.

Shakhtar led 3-0 at half-time as Madrid conceded three first-half goals in a Champions League match for the first time in 15 years, before Los Blancos rallied through Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior goals in the second 45 minutes but it was not enough.

Pressure is mounting on Zidane ahead of Saturday's Clasico showdown against Barcelona after Madrid tasted a third consecutive Champions League defeat for the first time since 1986 but the under-fire boss remains convinced he is the right man for the job in the Spanish capital.

"I see myself capable of fixing this, that's what I'm going to try," Zidane, whose Madrid were eliminated in the Champions League last 16 in 2019-20, said in his post-match interview. "And the players are going to try, too.

"We are going to look for the solution and we're going to find it. Now we have to prepare for Saturday's game [away to Barcelona]."

Out-of-favour forward Luka Jovic – who lasted 59 minutes before being replaced by Vinicius – spearheaded Madrid's attack with Karim Benzema on the bench, while Eder Militao partnered Raphael Varane in the absence of superstar captain Sergio Ramos.

Shakhtar were missing 10 first-team players due to coronavirus but the Ukrainian visitors blew Madrid away in the first half at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, where strikes from Mateus Tete and Manor Solomon sandwiched a Varane own goal.

"It's a bad feeling [that we have after this result], of course," Zidane said after Madrid lost their opening Champions League game at home for the first time ever. "It ended up being a mix of everything. We made a mistake leading up to the first goal and afterwards the truth is that we were missing a bit of confidence, a bit of action, a bit of everything in the first half.

"I am happy for the players who reacted and changed in the second half, because they don't deserve such things. It was a bad game, a bad night. I'm the coach, I'm the one who needs to find a solution, and I'm not going to find it tonight."

Zidane added: "I am responsible and since the first half was negative, I have not done something right. The first goal changed everything and [ultimately] cost us. But this [Champions League campaign] has just begun and we are not going to give up."

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

For so long, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

However, Mbappe is believed to be attracted to the idea of leaving Parc des Princes for Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE INTRIGUED BY LIVERPOOL

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is interested in a move to Premier League champions Liverpool, according to Le Parisien.

Mbappe is contracted to PSG until 2022 but the France international forward has reportedly made it clear he has no plans to extend his deal in Paris.

He has long been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though the 21-year-old is attracted to Liverpool's style of play. Barcelona have also emerged as a possible destination.

 

ROUND-UP

Zinedine Zidane retains the backing of Madrid following last week's shock defeat to newly promoted Cadiz, says AS. Head coach Zidane has come in for criticism after Madrid's first loss of the season. While delivering LaLiga glory last term, Zidane is reportedly under pressure to succeed in the Champions League following their last-16 exit in 2019-20.

- The Daily Star says Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil is wanted by MLS outfit DC United. Wayne Rooney previously played for DC between 2018 and 2020.

- Todofichajes claims PSG and United are interested in Inter midfielder Christian Eriksen, who has struggled to establish himself in Milan since arriving from Tottenham in January.

Tottenham are close to agreeing a contract extension with Spurs star Son Heung-min, reports The Athletic.

Sergio Ramos has been omitted from Real Madrid's squad for their opening Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk. 

Madrid's captain was a fitness doubt for the match at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano after picking up a knock to his knee in the disappointing 1-0 defeat to Cadiz on Saturday. 

Ramos did not train with his team-mates on Tuesday, so it was no surprise to see him absent from a 19-man squad ahead of Wednesday's fixture in the group stage of the competition. 

Head coach Zinedine Zidane had been non-committal on Ramos' involvement when asked about his skipper at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday, prior to the squad announcement. 

"There's an issue with Sergio Ramos, he hasn't trained with the team," Zidane said. 

"We won't take any risks with the players; the players have to be fit. He's got a knock, we have to wait and see how he feels, it's true today he didn't train at the same tempo as his team-mates."

It remains to be seen if Ramos will be fit enough for Saturday's first Clasico clash of the season against Barcelona, which takes place at Camp Nou.

As well as Madrid and Shakhtar, Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach are the other teams to make up Group B.

Sergio Ramos faces a battle to be fit for Real Madrid's Champions League opener against Shakhtar Donetsk with head coach Zinedine Zidane set to make a call on his availability on Wednesday.

Los Blancos captain Ramos took a knock to his knee in Saturday's shock 1-0 LaLiga loss to Cadiz and was absent from Tuesday's training session ahead of the fixture at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

With the first Clasico of the campaign against Barcelona taking place this weekend Zidane is unlikely to risk exacerbating the issue and the Frenchman plans to see how his skipper is on game day.

"There's an issue with Sergio Ramos, he hasn't trained with the team," Zidane told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"We won't take any risks with the players; the players have to be fit. He's got a knock, we have to wait and see how he feels, it's true today he didn't train at the same tempo as his team-mates."

While Ramos is a fresh injury concern, forward Eden Hazard – whose time at Madrid has been blighted by fitness woes – remains a longer-term absentee.

The Belgium international, who is yet to feature this campaign, was set to return to action last month but sustained a muscle complaint during his recovery from an ankle injury.

Offering an update on Hazard, Zidane said: "Eden has been back out on the training pitch but that injury was a bit more than we hoped.

"He's in good hands and hopefully shortly he'll be back and he'll back to stay fit and hopefully he'll be able to play for the full season without further setbacks."

Hazard may be low on luck, but his Belgium team-mate Thibaut Courtois has been in sensational form for Madrid.

Of the previous 43 shots on target he has faced in LaLiga, Courtois has saved 38 and his stats for his season show he has kept out 16 of the 19 efforts on target.

Asked to explain Courtois' performances, Zidane said: "I think Thibaut Courtois has always proven his worth. He's a great goalkeeper.

"I think he just needed some time to adapt to the demands of playing for such a big club. No one ever doubted his talent.

"We see he's improving every day, it's great for the team, great for Thibaut. If everyone can play at 100 per cent, we'll be a tough side to beat. That is our objective: to play at 100 per cent every game."

Madrid were well below their best against Cadiz, mustering just two shots on target despite having almost 75 per cent of the possession.

Zidane's side have scored just six goals in five LaLiga games but the coach, while accepting his team deserved the criticism that came their way, said there will be plenty of peaks and troughs in a busy campaign.

"I think we deserved the criticism as published following that defeat, but now it's our opportunity to turn the tide, turn that corner and hopefully you'll see a different Real Madrid," he said.

"I think whenever things have been tough, this team have stepped up and produced the goods. There are moments during the season when there are dips in form.

"The other day we could have done things better and I'm convinced we can do things better.

"I think you have to look at the bigger picture. If you look at not just us, others too, no clubs have started in brilliant fashion, teams have struggled. There will be days when we do things very, very well."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane moved third on the club's list for LaLiga games overseen.

Zidane took charge of his 150th league match as champions Madrid suffered a shock 1-0 loss to newly promoted Cadiz on Saturday.

Only Miguel Munoz (424) and Vicente Del Bosque (153) have overseen more LaLiga matches whilst at the helm of Madrid.

Zidane, who made his coaching debut in his first spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2016, guided Los Blancos to LaLiga glory last season.

The Frenchman has tallied 102 LaLiga victories, only behind Miguel Munoz (257).

In two spells with Madrid, former star Zidane has won three Champions League titles, two LaLiga trophies, two Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two Supercopa de Espana crowns.

Madrid remain top of the table in 2020-21, ahead of Getafe, Cadiz and Granada on goal difference.

Zinedine Zidane offered no excuses after a Real Madrid side who lost Sergio Ramos to injury were humbled by Cadiz on Saturday.

Anthony Lozano scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute as the reigning LaLiga champions were stunned by their newly promoted opponents, who matched their hosts' tally of 14 shots despite having just 25 per cent possession.

The result was a surprising setback ahead of a week that includes the start of Madrid's Champions League campaign – they take on Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday – and a trip to rivals Barcelona.

Zidane was full of praise for Cadiz in the aftermath, admitting they were far sharper than his own team as the minnows claimed their first away win over Madrid.

"We have no excuses, it is a bad game and we must congratulate Cadiz," Zidane said, according to Marca.

"They have shown more rhythm, more desire. We are not happy. It is what can happen in football."

He added: "We do not physically enter the game and it shows. There are no excuses and we have to see how we can change it.

"We have lacked many things. If you do not have rhythm in a LaLiga game it is complicated, they have had more rhythm and more eager."

Defender Ramos was substituted at half-time and watched the rest of the game from the stands with ice on his left knee.

"It's a nuisance, we'll see what he has," Zidane said of the Madrid captain's injury. "We hope it is not too serious, tomorrow (Sunday) we will see what it is exactly, hopefully not too much."

The Frenchman also dismissed any concerns that the result will have a lasting impact on his squad.

Madrid received some good news with Barcelona's defeat at Getafe in Saturday's late kick-off, meaning the two rivals have both lost heading into a Clasico contest for the first time since April 2003.

"We have only lost three points. They are three important points, but nothing more. Now we have to think about the next game," Zidane told the media.

"We are going to try to do things right. It is clear that today is a bad time, but we are going to try to change this."

Zinedine Zidane does not believe he will have a problem motivating Luka Jovic despite Borja Mayoral claiming the Real Madrid boss wanted to get rid of him.

Mayoral left the LaLiga champions to join Roma on loan this month after returning to Santiago Bernabeu following two seasons with Levante.

The forward this week said Zidane wanted him to remain in Madrid and offload Serbia striker Jovic instead.

Jovic responded to those comments by telling El Chiringuito TV that "maybe" Mayoral was right and "You have to ask the club."

Zidane on Friday brushed away suggestions Jovic may be surplus to requirements and says he can play a part for Madrid this season.

"The conversations I have with my footballers are behind closed doors," the Madrid head coach said during a media conference on the eve of the LaLiga clash with Cadiz.

"They are private and what goes on in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room. I'm not going to talk about what's going on beyond this club, on this group of footballers and that's my sole interest.

"The conversations with my footballers and private and will stay that way."

Asked if it might be tough to motivate Jovic, Zidane replied: "Jovic is a Real Madrid player. I want Jovic here.

"Lots of people can have their opinion, they are entitled to their opinion, we have to live with that. But Jovic is a Real Madrid player."

Zidane plans to rotate his squad with a hectic schedule to come.

He added: "We have spoken about this many times. To win things in a very long season we need to make rotations, and we have very good players who allow us to make changes.

"People need to remember what this team has lived through, the players never rest. We have a run of seven games and then they all go off with their national teams again.

"But I'm not complaining, I'm only explaining that it is necessary to rotate and I think we can still win while doing that."

Thibaut Courtois backed Eden Hazard to eventually "explode" for Real Madrid after his luckless injury run.

Hazard is yet to make an appearance for Madrid this season, having suffered a muscle injury just as he neared a return from an ankle issue.

The playmaker struggled to have much of an impact for the LaLiga giants in his first season following his arrival for a reported €100million (£86m) from Chelsea last year.

But Belgium and Madrid team-mate Courtois believes it is only a matter of time before Hazard delivers at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Hazard? I have no doubt, I am sure we will see the best Eden Hazard," the goalkeeper told Cadena SER on Wednesday.

"He is the first with the desire to show it. I see him very well and hopefully soon he can prove it.

"Just before his injury, he played several games very well and there he had such bad luck and getting out of that was not easy.

"But now this month I saw him train very well. I am sure that in no time he will explode and will to give many joys to the team."

Courtois arrived at Madrid from Chelsea in 2018 and also struggled initially, but he has turned his form around.

The 28-year-old paid tribute to coach Zinedine Zidane for continuing to back him.

"Zidane has given me a lot of confidence. I have always felt that he counted on me and it is important," Courtois said.

"In those difficult moments at the beginning of last year, if you don't feel that the coach is with you, it becomes difficult."

Courtois' save percentage in LaLiga in his first season with Madrid in 2018-19 was 65.4, as per Opta.

That figure improved to 79.2 last season, as he faced 302 shots in both of those campaigns.

In four games so far in 2020-21, Courtois' save percentage is at 86.7, showcasing his improvement at Madrid.

Madrid, who are top of LaLiga with 10 points from four games, host Cadiz on Saturday.

Roma forward Borja Mayoral has suggested Zinedine Zidane wanted him to stay at Real Madrid and for Luka Jovic to instead be sold.

Mayoral was a bit-part player for Zidane in 2017-18 and spent the following two LaLiga campaigns on loan with Levante, where he scored 14 goals in 69 appearances in all competitions.

He returned to Madrid for the start of this season and was brought on as a substitute in two league games but has since joined Roma on an initial two-year loan deal.

However, Mayoral has claimed things could have turned out differently as Zidane preferred him to Jovic, who has struggled to make an impact since arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

"After doing pre-season with Real Madrid, I was going to leave the club quickly, but Zidane wanted me to stay," he said upon being presented by Roma on Wednesday. 

"I told him I had to leave to get more opportunities. I think the club listened to Zidane and that's why they instead wanted to offload Jovic. 

"Everything was done very late, but in the end, I called [Zidane's] office again and asked him if he could let me leave. 

"I thought I would have more opportunities to play and improve. In the end it's done, I'm here and this is the most important thing."

Roma paid €2million for the temporary deal and have an option to make the move permanent for €15m during the 2020-21 season or €20m in the subsequent campaign.

Mayoral has yet to make his debut for the Serie A club but is raring to get going in a new league.

"I arrived a little late, but the important thing is that I am here now," he said.

"I consider myself a young striker, who is very eager, very hungry, who gained some experience already in LaLiga. 

"I'm a striker who scores, who plays well in the penalty area, but who also moves well, who can help the team with his movements, making assists.

"I have been here for just 10 days and I am very satisfied with my choice, happy with the club and the team-mates. I feel comfortable."

Zinedine Zidane felt Real Madrid struggled to kill the game off against Levante because they are still "lacking something" in the early stages of the season.

Madrid took the lead at the Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday through Vinicius Junior in the 16th minute, but Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar before half-time.

Karim Benzema struck the post and Vinicius missed a pair of chances to add to his tally within 10 minutes of the restart.

Levante did not wilt but they were unable to find a way past Thibaut Courtois, who did superbly to deny Enis Bardhi on three occasions.

Madrid finally put the game to bed in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema on a fast break and the Frenchman scored his first goal of the season.

Zidane saw some positives as his team moved top of LaLiga but knows the reigning champions remain some way short of their best.

"It was a game we suffered in. We had chances to kill the game off in the second half, and it could have been a very different match," Zidane told Movistar.

"We suffered a lot because they had chances too. I'm happy about the first half but the game is 90 minutes.

"It's the beginning of the season and we know we're lacking something in attack and defence. We are not playing perfectly. I'm happy with the effort, they've given their all.

"I've seen it against this same opponent, they have good chances that you have to contain.

"Maybe physically we're not quite there. The opponent put a little more energy in and had two or three chances.

"I'm very happy going into the international break. The team is working well together, wanting to show what they can do."

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema were on target as Real Madrid overcame Levante 2-0 in LaLiga on Sunday.

After netting the winner against Real Valladolid in midweek, Vinicius scored in successive LaLiga games for the first time in his career.

The Brazilian spurned a couple of chances at the Estadio de la Ceramica to add to his tally after Benzema struck the post early in the second half. Levante also had opportunities – Nikola Vukcevic hit the crossbar in the first half and Thibaut Courtois twice kept out Enis Bardhi around the hour mark.

But Levante's push for an equaliser was punished in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Rodrygo released Benzema and the striker got off the mark this season with an emphatic finish at the end of a fast break.

Madrid moved in front in the 16th minute when a corner fell to Vinicius at the back post and he made the most of not being closed down by bending a delightful effort into the far side of the net.

The champions struggled to create further openings and only the bar stopped Vukcevic restoring parity after he climbed above Nacho Fernandez – deployed at right-back with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola out injured – to get his head on Jose Campana's corner.

Madrid showed greater urgency after the restart and, in the space of four minutes, Benzema struck the base of the post before Vinicius shaved the upright and missed the target from six yards out.

Levante were unperturbed and Bardhi saw a 25-yard thunderbolt parried by Courtois, who then kept out the midfielder's next effort, which took a deflection off Casemiro, with his leg.

Sergio Ramos had a goal ruled out for offside but Madrid put the game beyond doubt when Benzema showed great composure to polish off a swift counter-attack.

 

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