Spanish media on Tuesday hailed Zinedine Zidane's surprising restoration as Real Madrid coach as the "return of the hero" and said the "savior" was also the "last shot" of the struggling European champion.
Usually if Real Madrid suffered back-to-back Clásico defeats to a table-topping Barcelona side at the Santiago Bernabeu, and then a Champions League elimination at home to – and this is meant only in terms of finance and expectation – relative minnows, you would fear for the manager’s future.
Barcelona was hailed as La Liga champion-elect in the Catalan media after its 1-0 win at Real Madrid on Saturday, while the capital’s press called for sweeping changes at Real after another domestic failure.
Real Madrid’s resurgent La Liga run skidded to a halt as it fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at home by struggling Girona on Sunday in which captain Sergio Ramos was sent off in added time, leaving the Spanish giant nine points adrift of leader Barcelona.
The Champions League last-16 first-leg match between Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday is an intriguing clash of two European heavyweights which have made young players central to their strategies, but for very different reasons.
Ernesto Valverde confirmed that Lionel Messi will be assessed by Barcelona's medical staff after taking a knock in the 2-2 draw against Valencia, bringing his status for their midweek Copa del Rey clash against Real Madrid into question.