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Real Madrid claimed victory in El Clasico at Camp Nou last weekend to give themselves a much needed boost and at least salvage some pride following their humiliation in the first meeting of the season in the Spanish capital.
Perhaps the man who gained most from the win was Zinedine Zidane who is still trying to prove he is the right man to lead Los Blancos into next season.
The Frenchman has a two and a half year contract at the Bernabeu but that is barely worth the paper it is written on given that Real Madrid managers very rarely make it to the end of their term.
Speculation has been mounting that the club are at the very least considering whether or not to get someone else in for next season so Zidane must know that he needs results in big games to stay in the job.
While he took over when Real Madrid were already well adrift in La Liga, he had been unable to make any inroads into Barcelona’s advantage prior to last weekend and the gap had in fact widened. Their clasico victory is still unlikely to alter the destination of the title but it could be crucial for Zidane’s future for many reasons.
Los Blancos were completely humiliated when Barcelona visited in the autumn and that single result was the main reason why Rafa Benitez was dismissed. A repeat mauling, which was by no means out of the question going into the game, would have once again turned Real Madrid into a laughing stock and if recent history is anything to go by may well have led to Zidane losing his job in the summer.
His primary mission was for his side to at least be competitive in the game and that he most certainly achieved. Zidane also displayed tactical maturity by employing a system which stifled much of Barcelona’s attacking play without totally nullifying Real Madrid’s threat and certainly in the latter stages Real Madrid were increasingly starting to resemble the side that won the Champions League two seasons ago with some vibrant counter-attacking football.
Zidane has been criticised in the past for his lack of tactical nous so to seemingly ‘get it right’ in the biggest game of all was a strong retort to his critics. The theory going into the biggest fortnight of his managerial career was that if Los Blancos could avoid a heavy defeat at Camp Nou and see off Wolfsburg in the Champions League then Zidane may well have done enough to ensure he remains in charge for next season.
The first part couldn’t have gone any better but his most impressive victory as a manager was followed by his most damaging defeat only four days later as Real Madrid crashed to a 2-0 defeat in Germany.
The second leg of their Quarter-Final with Wolfsburg next week now has the feel of a massive game not only for Real Madrid’s season, but their manager’s future.
A European exit against a mid-table German team isn’t something that is likely to be tolerated by the powers that be in Madrid and despite their Clasico victory and Zidane’s close relationship with Florentino Perez, failure to turn the two goal deficit around in the second leg may be enough to convince the board that another change in direction is needed this summer.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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