MADRID: Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists he is responsible for the European champions’ back-to-back defeats as they look to return to winning ways when Malaga visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Madrid hadn’t lost in 40 matches in all competitions stretching back nine months until conceding twice to lose 2-1 at Sevilla last weekend, and followed that up with a shock defeat by the same scoreline at home to Celta Vigo in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday.
Zidane played down his concern, but admitted “something is wrong for sure” after Madrid lost on home soil for the first time in 11 months and just the second time since he took charge.
“I am the one responsible for this and I have to look for the solution,” said the Frenchman.
Worryingly for Zidane, Madrid’s lacklustre display in midweek came about despite the fact he picked almost a full strength side.
Karim Benzema looks set to return up front and Keylor Navas will replace Kiko Casilla in goal.
However, with first-choice right-back Dani Carvajal out injured for a month, Zidane may have to move captain Sergio Ramos or Nacho wide to avoid handing the hapless Danilo, who was jeered by the Real fans on Wednesday, another start.
Malaga are suffering a slump of their own with new coach Marcelo Romero yet to pick up a point in two games since former Spurs boss Juande Ramos resigned during the winter break.
Top scorer Sandro Ramirez is expected to be out till March through injury, whilst the on-loan Diego Llorente can’t feature this weekend against his parent club.
A return to winning ways will allow Madrid to open up a four-point lead at the top of the table before Sevilla have the chance to cut the gap, or even go top should Real slip-up once more, when they travel to bottom-placed Osasuna on Sunday.
Sevilla are in stunning form having won their last four league games, but will have to do without the influential Vitolo for up to a month with the Spanish international sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Barcelona stand just a point adrift of Sevilla in third and have bounced back into form themselves with three straight wins after a difficult start to the year, the latest of which came at Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
Barca boss Luis Enrique made seven changes in midweek and is expected to make full use of his squad again for Sunday’s trip to Eibar.
However, the star front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are likely to all start once more.
Atletico Madrid remain on the outskirts of the title race, six points back on city rivals Real, and face a serious challenge if they are to remain in the hunt at Athletic Bilbao.
Meanwhile, two of Spain’s in-form sides Sociedad and Celta face off in the battle for European places on Sunday.