Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk: It’s time for Los Blancos to learn some lessons

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid were woeful against Shakhtar Donetsk in their 2020-2021 Champions League opener, losing 3-2 despite a furious comeback attempt.

After Real Madrid‘s humiliating 1-0 home defeat to Cadiz in La Liga this weekend, Madridistas thought it couldn’t possibly get worse than that.

It did. And it only took days for Real to turn in an even worse performance in the first half.

Shakhtar Donetsk came into the game with several absences due to COVID-19, so they were not favored at all against Real Madrid. With an entirely new lineup, including Rodrygo Goes and Luka Jovic starting, this was supposed to be a “get right” game for Los Blancos before El Clasico.

This was supposed to be a game where Zinedine Zidane learned some lessons from the defeat to Cadiz on Saturday. At worst, the loss to Cadiz was supposed to be like the loss to Mallorca last October – a wake-up call for Real Madrid.

Maybe the wake-up call was for us, as fans, to realize that after not signing anyone this summer, Real Madrid won’t be highly competitive until 2021-2022. And that’s if Real make some new transfers, signing ambitious targets like Kylian Mbappe and Eduardo Camavinga.

The blame for Real Madrid’s poor performances must be shared

Worryingly, Real’s biggest problems are tactical and not down to the personnel. I mean, if Real suffer two humiliating defeats back-to-back with different players, there has to be a more fundamental issue than who is playing.

The players can’t be absolved, of course. There were a lot of sloppy passes, individual defensive mistakes, and no responsibility being taken in the attack. Aside from Vinicius Junior, none of the other young forwards show that kind of leadership to make something happen.

But even so, Zinedine Zidane has to answer serious questions about his tactical approach. Real are static, rely too much on aimless sideways passing, and seem to only create chances from crosses (Marcelo in this game) or absolute brilliance from the best midfielder of his generation (Luka Modric, in case you are a Barcelona fan and think I am talking about Xavi).

Why were Luka Modric and Fede Valverde pressing higher than Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio? Why was Marcelo more narrow than Rodrygo after that strategy did not work out against Cadiz? Where are the rotations in the attack? Why aren’t players instructed to make as many disruptive runs in and around the box? What’s up with the pointless crosses? Have we not learned anything over the past two years since that disastrous 2018-2019 campaign?

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As they have all season long, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde, Vinicius Junior, and Thibaut Courtois did everything they could to make sure this game was a contest despite the horrific first half. But the 3-2 scoreline should not spare Los Blancos criticism. They have a lot of work to do before the Clasico and for the rest of the season to meet the standard expected in Madrid.