Tough for struggling Real at Valencia

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema wincing in agony after his side were dumped out of the King's Cup by Leganes, who had never won at the Bernabeu prior to their quarter-final, second-leg tie. Valencia aim to compound their misery in the league tomorrow.
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema wincing in agony after his side were dumped out of the King's Cup by Leganes, who had never won at the Bernabeu prior to their quarter-final, second-leg tie. Valencia aim to compound their misery in the league tomorrow.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Real Madrid visit third-placed Valencia tomorrow in the middle of a deepening crisis with pressure mounting on coach Zinedine Zidane following their King's Cup elimination at the hands of local rivals Leganes.

Real's dismal start to the season has left them fourth in LaLiga, 19 points behind table-toppers Barcelona and five adrift of tomorrow's opponents.

The LaLiga and European champions face a battle just to secure Champions League football next season with Villarreal just one point behind them in fifth.

With the daunting prospect of facing Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League next month, Zidane is coming under intense scrutiny after a run in which Real have won just two of their last six games in all competitions.

They have not won at Valencia's Mestalla stadium since 2013 and Zidane says he needs to find an answer to their current woes.

"I'm responsible for this, I'm the boss," said the Frenchman, following the 2-1 second-leg home defeat by Leganes to exit the Cup on away goals. Real won the first leg 1-0.

"I have to find the solutions; we've found some of them but not consistently enough. I need to take responsibility and I'll always fight."

  • 50%

  • Real Madrid have won only half of their 18 home matches in all competitions.

Javi Eraso gave Leganes a 32nd-minute lead with a spectacular curling shot from long range.

Karim Benzema levelled on the night after 47 minutes but Brazilian striker Gabriel Pires then hit the winner with a firm header eight minutes later.

In 18 games in all competitions at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium this season Zidane's men have won just nine times, losing four and drawing five including two 2-2 draws in the Cup against third-tier opposition in the earlier rounds.

However, Cup elimination by a side who had never won at the Bernabeu in their history after taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg was a new low.

Despite lifting eight major trophies in just over two years in charge, the pressure is on Zidane - who recently penned a contract extension until 2020 - to turn things around or face the fate of so many of his predecessors.

"What matters is that we think positively. It's a blow to take, a fiasco, but 2018 is not over yet. We need to bounce back. We've got a big game on Saturday and on Feb 14, another (against PSG)," Zidane added. 

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2018, with the headline 'Tough for struggling Real at Valencia'. Print Edition | Subscribe