After a few months of disappointment and chaos surrounding the Real Madrid camp, we all saw a glimmer of hope after their 2-1 win against Barcelona as they now prepare for the UEFA Champions League game against Wolfsburg. I decided to talk to two Real Madrid fans on Twitter to see what they think we should be expecting for the rest of the season while also taking their opinions on some other important topics.
Tell the readers a little about yourself.
Miran Saric –
My name is Miran Saric, I’ve been a Real Madrid fan for the better part of 20 years or so and have written about the club for a few blogs, primarily at Managing Madrid and Outside of the Boot.
I have been on Twitter for 6 years now, less active than I was in previous years but still kicking. I am based in Canada and although my life is quite busy I keep on tweeting to have a little break from real life and talk about what I love.
With the “business” part of the season here, how do you see Real Madrid doing in La Liga?
Miran Saric –
Despite the impressive win at the Camp Nou, it’s hard for me to see this club making kind of last second push for the title simply because it would take a collapse of epic proportions from Barca. At best, Atleti will stumble and give up their hold on second place but even that is difficult to predict.
While doing the ‘camita’ we lost a lot of valuable points… Now that the team seems to be happy and we are doing better, the chances of winning La Liga are slim. That being said, Real Madrid is known for not giving up and for amazing come backs… I wouldn’t rule us out just yet.
What about the UEFA Champions League?
Miran Saric –
Much like the league, it’s hard for me to make Real Madrid a favorite for the Champions League or even a second or third favorite. Barcelona and Bayern are the class of the competition and I think it would be foolish to write off PSG and Atleti. It’ll take a good draw in the semis and a giant being knocked out early for me to feel confident in Zidane’s men.
The odds are intact. Being fair, we drew the best possible scenario but this is football, 180 minutes, 11 vs 11 and anything can happen. We have to take it stage by stage because regardless of the rival other factors play into how we perform. For instance, if key players get injured or suspended, the next round would become more difficult if we were to make it. With all that in mind, I believe the ‘undecima’ is our focus and the most realistic way we have to save a season that has not been very pleasant.
What major differences do you see under Zinedine Zidane when compared to Rafael Benitez?
Miran Saric –
Defensively, not much. This team is still clumsy when they try to press and opponents are still getting off far too many easy shots. Offense is still a work in progress but when they’re at home it’s obvious that the sense of urgency has picked up quite a bit. They look eager to put an end to the match quickly with a barrage of goals.
The players’ mood. The players clearly did not like Benitez and they gave up La Liga to have him gone. The team’s structure has been the same for a few years now. Zidane shows a mix of Ancelotti and Mourinho but overall the talent never left. Now that the players have gotten what they wanted there is better chemistry on the pitch and a better attitude towards the challenges in front. I am sure from a motivational standpoint Zinedine brings something that none of the previous coaches brought. Zizou has played Clasicos, he has won Champions, Ligas, you name it. He knows what it is like to be boo’ed at the Bernabeu and to have the Bernabeu on its feet, chanting his name. This is priceless experience that the players have the luxury to live with.
In your opinion, who have been the most important player for Los Blancos this season (choose maximum 3)? Why?
Miran Saric –
Marcelo, Luka Modric and Keylor Navas. There is not defender in the world more integral to his team’s offense than Marcelo, his presence alone frees up Cristiano Ronaldo to do his thing in a way no one else can do. Modric, in my opinion, is the best two-way midfielder in the world and it’s obvious how much the club suffers without him, we saw it for months at a time last season. Lastly, Navas might not be a name as heralded as Manuel Neuer or David De Gea but it’s a scary thought to imagine how far down the table this club would be were it not for his reflexes.
Keylor Navas. He has single-handedly saved so many points from slipping away. It would be silly not to name him. I would say Gareth Bale too as when he has been fit he has always been outstanding, however, due to the amount of games he has missed it would be unfair to choose him for the whole season. The same goes for Benzema. Oh how this story be different if the two would have been fit. I would definitely say Keylor has been our most important player this season and Cristiano’s goals have also been decisive. To me, the top two players. If fit, I do not doubt I would be naming Benzema and Bale here but under the circumstances I can’t. It is a similar situation with Casemiro. I have never doubted his talent and he has been outstanding when given the chance, however, it is only lately that he has been playing for which I cannot say he has been an important player this season – even if it is not his fault.
In regards to the UEFA Champions League, which team do you think would make Real Madrid struggle the most? Why?
Miran Saric –
Atletico Madrid. Just as Jose Mourinho’s Madrid side was built and developed to beat Barcelona, such as Diego Simeone’s Atleti built to take down Real Madrid. Their lack of offense gives me some hope but if any side is built to snatch the lead and hold on over two legs, it’s them. That being said, I’m still holding out hope (against all logic) that Madrid can put three or so past them over two legs should they somehow meet in the next round as something about their vaunted defense still doesn’t sit right to me.
I think either Spanish team because they are like cousins who know each others’ weaknesses and strengths so well that games become unpredictable, especially at this stage. Real Madrid’s Achilles has been clasicos and derbis since the departure of Jose Mourinho, stats don’t lie. I hope the reality changes under Zidane but I cannot say that it has only because we won the last Clasico – although this will certainly be a huge confidence boost for what is to come.
If you were in charge of transfers, which Real Madrid players would you get rid of? Who would you bring in?
Miran Saric –
I’d offload Alvaro Arbeloa and Denis Cheryshev, that’s it. If someone were to come around and offer a megadeal for James Rodriguez I’d seriously consider that too and I’m not above floating Ronaldo’s name on the market as I do believe the Gareth Bale era needs to start sooner than later. As far as incoming signings, I like Jetro Willems as a project at left back but aside from that I’d fill the rest of the squad with loanees and Castilla kids. Diego Llorente is having a fantastic year at Rayo and can fill in at both CB and DM, while Mariano has arguably been Castilla player of the season at striker. I’d keep Marco Asensio and Jesus Vallejo on loan for one more year and would go with the squad already at hand, though I wouldn’t be opposed to the De Gea deal going through this summer like it was supposed to have last year.
I would get rid of Ramos and Pepe and bring two younger (not young necessarily but younger) CBs to play with Varane. Hummels would be amazing and the timing is perfect. Then I would get rid of Jese and Isco and bring Agüero or Hazard (Zidane seems to want him). Another 9 would be good to give Benzema rest from time to time. Someone older, with the same idea when Van Nistelrooy was signed. Someone experienced and cheap(er)… Gignac?
Any last words for the readers?
Miran Saric – Get your Atleti scarves out for the Champions League as they’re the only thing standing in the way of Barca’s treble. If they do the improbable and take down the defending champions, coupled with Bayern’s vulnerabilities on either end of the pitch, perhaps we might see a late charge from Zidane’s men. Or they could be obliterated by Julian Draxler and Wolfsburg. Who knows with this team anymore…
You can follow both Los Merengues fans on Twitter as they continue to share their opinions on our beloved club. Miran Saric, who believes that Real Madrid have ruined Asier Illarramendi, goes by the name @therealbozz. As for RMadridGirl, her Twitter handle is @rmadridgirl.