BY THE time you read this, the result of UEFA Champions League’s first-leg quarterfinal between FC Barcelona and Juventus would be known. In another top-billed match, holders Real Madrid take on Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Whatever be the results, spotlight currently falls on Barcelona and Real Madrid managers Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane respectively. While the former announced almost a month ago that he would leave at the end of season, the latter recently said he wasn’t sure of his future, raising a lot of speculation.
The immediate-past results for both weren’t satisfactory. Barca suffered an ignominious 0-2 loss to Malaga while Real were held to a 1-1 draw by city rivals Atletico.
It’s true that Barca staged one of the most remarkable recoveries to down Paris Saint-Germain en route to the quarterfinal, but it isn’t all hunky-dory in their dressing room. Enrique has never been popular among senior players, especially Lionel Messi. Nevertheless, Barca are in contention for a hat-trick of titles, but last week’s loss to Malaga has dented their prospects of topping the La Liga.
They’ve lost some of their customary flair and sharpness. It was quite uncharacteristic of them to have underestimated Malaga, showing scant respect too. Enrique’s team selection, leaving out Andres Iniesta who had a brilliant game against Sevilla in the previous round, has also come in for a lot of criticism.
Zidane, on the other hand, has been exceptional in marshalling his resources and preparing his team, but it won’t be that easy for him to conquer Bayern, under the tutelage of Italian Carlo Ancelotti.
Three years ago, when Real lifted their 10th Champions League title, the duo were on the same side — Zidane was Ancelotti’s assistant. The Frenchman had also played under him at Juventus.
Zidane is aware that if he failed to win the league and retain Champions League crown, all his past exploits would be forgotten. Perhaps, that’s why he recently said no Real coach was safe without success under president Florentino Perez.
Anyway, the season is drawing to an end and the game of musical chairs is set to start, at least for some top coaches.