Julen Lopetegui heads into El Clasico with his fate all but sealed

first_imgNow, he looks likely to be the sacrificial lamb in an attempt to alleviate the discontent in the Spanish capital. The results are undoubtedly poor, and disappointment over Lopetegui leaving will be hard to find.A fair assessment of what is going wrong at the Bernabéu should consider more than just the coach himself however, and also take into account what the coach has been given to work with.This is, after all, a side that was built expressly to supply one player – Cristiano Ronaldo. When that player left in the summer, there was little investment of significance or indeed intelligence in the transfer market to help re-structure the team. Add to that aging players in key positions, and others who are clearly tired from a lengthy World Cup summer, and is it really a surprise that Madrid are struggling? Gareth Bale has gone five games without a goal for Real Madrid 4 Julen Lopetegui’s position as Real Madrid boss remains precarious 4 Marcelo’s goal helped earned Real Madrid a win over Viktoria Plzen, but it was an unconvincing display by the Spanish giants Whistles were already serenading the home team at half time after they had allowed the visitors a golden opportunity to equalize before the break. That frailty at the back continued in the second half, when Madrid were unable to see out a clean sheet, conceding with ten minutes to go and leaving their boss with a sullen expression which is now all too familiar.Unless something truly spectacular happens in El Clásico this weekend, Lopetegui is going through his final, painful days in charge of Madrid. A shock away loss to CSKA Moscow in early October followed by Los Blancos’ first league defeat at Alavés since 1931 was the initial sign of trouble in the air. When that was followed by an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Levante at the Bernabéu last weekend – leaving Madrid winless in five games – the manager’s fate was practically sealed.Tellingly, the leaks have now started to come thick and fast. On Monday, stories of dressing room discontent emerged, big players apparently suspecting that Lopetegui had been brought in to weed out some of the older squad members ahead of a changing of the guard. A former youth coach, player, and man of the club who knows how things work, and would be willing to take charge of a difficult process of transition. Real Madrid picked up their first win in five games on Tuesday, but Julen Lopetegui will still be coaching for his job in El Clásico this weekend – if he can save it at all.Madrid’s 2-1 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzeň does little to alter their manager’s position. At least not in a good way. 4 Whether a different coach can do any better under those conditions, time will tell, but asked to do better they will be. The names touted vary from uninspiring, to fanciful, to risky. Antonio Conte is one said to be at the top of the list. Jose Mourinho another.So one coach who was sacked from his last job after missing out on the Champions League and falling out with the club hierarchy, and another whose last spell at Madrid ended with him falling out with the dressing room heavyweights, and has seen his stock slip significantly since. Both are a far cry from the unifying force of Zinedine Zidane, the club legend who guided Los Blancos to a third Champions League in succession earlier this year, and is already sorely missed.A rumoured third option as a short-term fix is Santiago Solari, the European Cup-winning former Madrid midfielder, who is currently Real Madrid Castilla coach and could follow a similar trajectory to Zidane by being jettisoned into the main job from a position in the academy. 4 Santiago Solari is in line to replace Julen Lopetegui Sceptics point out that Solari’s Castilla finished an uninspiring 11th and ninth in their two full seasons in the Spanish third division so far. They perhaps forget that Zidane’s Castilla missed out on promotion from the same league in his first season in charge there, and had drawn seven and lost two out of 19 the subsequent year before he was unexpectedly given the bigger gig. In those days, there was little coaching brilliance on show to suggest that Zidane would go on to be Madrid’s second most successful manager ever.Regardless of the person chosen for the task – someone new, a stop-gap from the academy, or Lopetegui, buoyed by a big performance at the Camp Nou this weekend – turning Madrid’s lumbering season around will be a sizeable job. Negativity is the dominant emotion at the club right now, and the champagne and celebrations of May’s 13th Champions League win already feel like a bygone era.last_img

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