Zinedine Zidane somehow masterminded a 2-1 victory over Barcelona in his first ever Clasico on Saturday night.
The odds were stacked against the Real Madrid head coach, who replaced Rafael Benitez at the Bernabeu in January, but second-half goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo turned the match on its head after Barcelona’s Gerard Pique had scored the opening goal on the 56th minute.
The inexperienced Zidane deserves immense credit for his role in Los Blancos’ surprise victory - and Spanish newspaper AS have obtained what they believe is the Frenchman’s pre-game tactics sheet before the Clasico. (Scroll down this page to view the pics).
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The notes bears the Real Madrid letterhead - boosting the chances of these pre-game tactics sheets being authentic rather than fake - and were sent to the newsrooms of AS hours before the match kicked off.
From the notes, AS are able to tell that heavy emphasis is placed on Barcelona’s high-pressing game and the need for Real Madrid’s players to provide options for each other when in possession - pretty standard stuff.
Pics: Zidane's notes
What do the notes tell us?
The notes also reveal the importance of limiting the impact of Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic - Barcelona’s supply line in midfield. The hope was that this would subsequently force the home team to switch play to the flanks, where Dani Carvajal and Marcelo were assigned the task of keeping Jordi Alba and Dani Alves quiet.
Sergio Ramos and Pepe, meanwhile, were responsible for keeping close tabs on Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ - Messi, Suarez and Neymar - were all well below-par in the Clasico. The world-class trio may have been struggling with fatigue following the recent international break.
Zidane is proving his doubters wrong
But regardless of whether Barcelona’s key players were tired, there’s no doubt Zidane got his tactics spot on.
Questions were being asked of the former Real Madrid Castilla coach back in February following Los Blancos’ 1-0 defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu, but he’s turned it around since then.
Zidane hoping to build on Clasico win
Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Luis Enrique’s side was Real Madrid’s sixth consecutive win and, barring a catastrophic end to the 2015-16 campaign, it’s now looking certain that Zidane will still be in charge of the Spanish giants next season.
"This can be a turning point -- it is very important, for the rest of the season, for our spirit," Zidane told reporters, per ESPN, after the Clasico victory. "And just before we play in the Champions League in Germany. Before the game, we wanted to keep doing what we are doing, preparing well. These are three points -- it is a derbi, it is better to win it, but these are [just] three points.
"Now we must think about resting well, and the next game, which is very important for us, and for what we want to do."
Will Zinedine Zidane turn out to be a world-class coach? Have your say by leaving a comment below.