With the upcoming Clasico postponed, the club’s focus appeared to be on remedying their poor European start
With the Clasico postponed Zinedine Zidane gambled and Real Madrid lost their unbeaten record in La Liga, seeing Barcelona surpass them at the top of the table.
Zidane’s team tumbled 1-0 at Mallorca on Saturday, but we’ll only know if the French coach’s bet paid off on Tuesday night, when Real Madrid face Galatasaray in Istanbul.
If Madrid were still travelling to Barcelona next weekend, the Mallorca clash would have felt far more important, especially after Barcelona’s comfortable 3-0 win at Eibar earlier in the day.
Madrid would have wanted to arrive at the Clasico on top of La Liga, so a potential defeat at Camp Nou wouldn’t have been so damaging, and a victory cause for real celebration.
However political turmoil in Catalonia has pushed the game back to December, giving Zidane leeway to rest players against Mallorca and keep them fresh for their midweek Champions League date.
Madrid’s bad start to their European campaign – losing against PSG then drawing with Club Brugge – clearly impacted on Zidane’s plans.
The Frenchman left Dani Carvajal at home and started with Fede Valverde and Raphael Varane on the bench, to keep both fresh for the trip to Istanbul.
Along with injuries for Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Lucas Vazquez, Nacho Fernandez, Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio, Eden Hazard missed the match due to the birth of his fourth child.
Zidane lined up with a near-suicidal team, with Casemiro and five strikers and playmakers making up the midfield and attack.
The Brazilian was left with far too much work to do and in the first half, Madrid were unsurprisingly overrun.
This was the first time Mallorca have hosted Los Blancos since 2012 and they responded well to the arrival of the record 13-time European cup winners.
Former Mallorca starlet Asensio, who signed for Real Madrid in 2014, watched from the stands at Son Moix, out injured and unable to help his current side – and how they needed help.
Mallorca broke the deadlock after seven minutes, when Lago Junior cut into the box and curled an effort home, past the helpless Thibaut Courtois.
The hosts saw a goal from Ante Budimir disallowed and a Junior cross was nearly turned home as Mallorca ran Madrid ragged.
Alvaro Odriozola was booked for hacking down flying Mallorca winger Junior and his red card in the second half came after another foul on the same soccer professional.
By contrast, at the other end, Vinicius Junior continued his erratic form, James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic were ineffective, while Isco was anaemic in central midfield.
Only Karim Benzema offered anything positive for Madrid, surprising nobody given he has been the team’s best soccer professional for a year, and saw an effort bounce back off the woodwork.
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That Zidane did not look to change anything at half-time was further proof that his plan for this game was more about making sure Madrid win Tuesday’s.
This was Mallorca coach Vicente Moreno’s 100th game since taking charge in 2017, leading the team to the top flight from Segunda B, with this match possibly his finest hour.
It certainly doesn’t look like Zidane’s, but if Madrid get their Champions League bid back on track on Tuesday in Turkey, he won’t mind too much.