Zinedine Zidane played with fire and got burned in Real Madrid’s Sunday night trip to Valencia. He named a surprising line-up that didn’t include Ferland Mendy or Toni Kroos and this came as a shock to the fans, the directors and even the players themselves.
With Eden Hazard and Casemiro forced to miss the trip due to COVID-19, many were confused when Mendy and Kroos were also left out in place of Marcelo and Isco.
“There’s no explanation for this game,” Zidane said in his press conference after the 4-1 defeat and several players were thinking something similar. They know in the dressing room who is in form and who isn’t and that’s why there was a lot of head-scratching when Marcelo and Isco started at Mestalla.
While the dressing room still respect Zidane to the maximum, there are some players who were left a little baffled by Sunday night’s line-up. With Mendy not called up by Didier Deschamps for the most recent France squad, it was especially surprising that he was rested in this game and that he didn’t play a single minute.
Kroos, meanwhile, will join up with Germany, but he was only given the final 15 minutes against Valencia and this was seen as odd since he is one of the most respected players in the squad and always does a good job of controlling the play and the rhythm.
Analysis and self-evaluation
There seemed to be a lack of confidence in this starting XI of many changes, some justified and others less so. Real Madrid’s competitive instincts and the leadership of Sergio Ramos mean that they try to play their best in every game, but that wasn’t possible with the line-up used against Valencia.
The post-match conversations between the players focused on the need for analysis and self-evaluation. Florentino Perez wasn’t at Mestalla, so his calming presence was missing from the dressing room after the game. The other directors, meanwhile, didn’t try to hide the post-match frustration at this heavy loss.