Los Blancos ended rivals Atletico Madrid’s unbeaten start to the 2020/21 domestic season with a 2-0 home win at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano last weekend, as Zidane looked to serve a vital reminder of Real Madrid’s ability to defend their title in the months ahead.
Zidane will take his team to Eibar this weekend with three points potentially enough to allow them to edge ahead of their rivals.
The French coach has looked to focus on consistency within his squad this season, with eight players playing in ten of their 14 league games so far this season, with the midfield axis of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos once again providing the fulcrum for Zidane’s plans.
Real Madrid have an excellent record against Eibar in recent seasons with six wins from their last seven league meetings with the Basque side.
Atletico face a home game against newly promoted Elche tis weekend, with Sociedad travelling to Levante, and anything other than maximum points could allow Real Madrid to benefit.
However, the major power shift in the title race is likely to become the final game before Christmas, with Atletico heading to Sociedad on December 22, with Real Madrid hosting Granada 24 hours later.
Zidane’s side wrap up 2020 with a home game against Elche, and a trip to Galicia to face Celta Vigo, with the defending champions confident of collecting maximum points from each game.
With the Champions League pushed back to the final week of February, Zidane and his players have an ideal opportunity to solidify their position in the title race, but to completely discount age old El Clasico foes Barcelona would be a big mistake.
Ronald Koeman’s side have been far from their best so far in 2020/21, with just six wins from their first 12 games of the campaign and damaging defeats to Getafe, Real Madrid, Atletico and Cadiz.
But despite that tough run, La Blaugrana could find themselves inside the Top Four with a positive result at home to Valencia this weekend, with games against Eibar and Huesca before the end of 2020, promising the opportunity of maximum points.
That would throw the La Liga title race wide at the start of 2020 with Koeman’s side likely to strengthen in the winter transfer market.
Lyon star Memphis Depay was linked with a summer move to the Camp Nou, and despite reports from the Daily Mail claiming he wants to stay in France until the end of the season, Koeman is expected to make a renewed move for his former Dutch star next month.
The former Everton boss is likely to test the water with two Premier League targets, with Eric Garcia and Gini Wijnaldum also linked with moves to Catalonia, with their respective contracts at Manchester City and Liverpool expiring in 2021.
Goals have not been an issue for either Real Madrid or Barcelona this season, with an average of two goals per game for both teams this season.
Backing either team to score in domestic action is always a solid option, and a real insight for those looking for tips on how to bet on soccer, with Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi always reliable choices in front of goal.
But it looks to be defensive security that will decide the title race between these two old rivals, if Atletico and Real Sociedad drop off in 2021, with Zidane’s champions holding the key advantage.
Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy remain an ever-present backline for Zidane, with Nacho Fernandez and Marcelo able deputies to step in if needed.
Injuries have ravaged Koeman’s options at the back in recent months, with keeper Marc Ter-Stegen the only constant in 2020/21.
Jordi Alba does look to have shaken off his early season injury issues and will reclaim his place at left back, with new signing Sergino Dest rotating with Sergi Roberto on the opposite flank.
But with Gerard Pique missing for the bulk of 2021 through injury, Clement Lenglet will shoulder the burden of being Koeman’s senior centre back option.
Samuel Umtiti’s continuing injury problems mean B team defenders Ronaldo Araujo and Oscar Mingueza have now been pressed into first team duty.
Mingueza could be Lenglet’s regular partner in the second half of the campaign and whether he is capable of maintaining his level could prove definitive in Koeman’s attempts to secure a league title in his first season in charge, up against a Real Madrid team that is hitting its best form at a vital moment.
With one El Clasico already played this season, Barcelona’s trip to the capital on April 11 will already be marked in both managers diaries.