Shakhtar did the double over Los Blancos with relative ease, winning 2-0 in a match where Madrid’s utter dysfunction continues to be laid bare.
Dentinho’s goal came as a result of yet another defensive mishap, this time Raphael Varane inexplicably deflecting the ball into the forward’s path, to continue a run of recent aberrations. Thibaut Courtois gifted Alaves victory at the weekend, while Sergio Ramos and Marcelo have also made recent errors.
The lack of intensity, of desire, is striking. Yes, this is a season without fans and with a packed calendar, but this has been Madrid’s default since the very beginning of the campaign. At no point this season have they appeared overly convincing, and what’s more, teams seem confident they can beat them.
Madrid racked up 1.4 xG in the contest but nearly half that came from Marco Asensio striking the post from a tight angle in the opening minutes. After that their efforts were from less than optimum positions. Half of their 14 shots came from outside the area, while another two came from oppressive angles. They didn’t create good chances, and it’s not the first time this season.
Zidane does have injuries. With Sergio Ramos out, the dynamic of this defence is already weakened, while Lucas Vazquez’s position as an acceptable right-back stand-in for the missing Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola lessens by the day. And Nacho, well, he’s just not good enough for this level.
And Varane’s form is a genuine concern.He recorded a 5.3 FC Rating here, the lowest of the match, and it is becoming ever-more obvious that when Ramos isn’t there to talk him through matches he is becoming a liability. His errors that cost Madrid their Champions League clash with Man City last season were seen as uncharacteristic at the time, but they are becoming more and more frequent. It is now just four clean sheets in 15 for this unit that won La Liga last season on the back of their brilliant defensive displays.
Ahead of those problems, Luka Modric wouldn’t have expected to play every week at 35, yet here we are, with Fede Valverde out until February at least. And Zidane’s baffling decision to leave out Casemiro and play Martin Odegaard, a player whose confidence and indeed position within the team has yet to develop, sums up his obtuse thinking. The Frenchman is trying various things to get a spark from this team, but nothing at all is working.
And with Eden Hazard injured - again - the options in attack are once again laid bare. Karim Benzema’s 29 touches show his lack of involvement coming back from his injury while none of Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, Vinicius Jr or Isco are giving this team anything at the moment.
And Zidane doesn't seem to know what to do about any of this. Any formation he tries, any combination of players, nothing is coming off. One win in six is testament to that and maybe it answers a few questions about this team’s ability to coach themselves to back-to-back-to-back Champions League glory, rather than via the innovations of the coach.
Losses to Shakhtar x 2, Cadiz, Alaves and Valencia would be enough to end virtually any other Madrid coach in history, and it may well do for Zidane yet. He announced after the match that he is refusing to resign, and want to continue onwards.
But the games don’t get easier. They face Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in their next two league matches, either side of what is now a must-win Champions League match against Borussia Monchengladbach. Influential Madrid-based newspaper Marca declared that ‘Madrid is a disaster, and no-one is saved’, suggesting that there is no intention to bury Zidane just yet.
But this is a team that is chronically broken, at the end of a cycle, and has no real path to rejuvenation.