Zidane has steadied the ship for Madrid but Hazard still needs the wind in his sails - 9jaflaver



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Zidane has steadied the ship for Madrid but Hazard still needs the wind in his sails

The Blancos have responded to a heavy defeat at PSG with three straight positive results, but their marquee summer signing has yet to get going

Real Madrid fans might not feel the same way, but Zinedine Zidane should walk away from the Wanda Metropolitano energised and hopeful with what he has seen, with one Eden Hazard-shaped caveat.

Los Blancos drew 0-0 at Atletico Madrid on Saturday night in a largely dull, attritional game, but it was a tie that leaves Real top of La Liga after seven matches.

For a team that has spent much of the past two seasons in the rear-view mirror of their greatest rivals, Barcelona, that is a solid accomplishment.

Moreover, for a team that was hammered 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain not a fortnight ago, there is now optimism and belief growing where recently lay panic and crisis.

A 1-0 win at Sevilla, a 2-0 win over Osasuna and this tie with bitter local rivals Atletico has steadied the ship.

Real started the season in disarray, partly due to being thrashed 7-3 by Atletico in a summer friendly in New Jersey, but this was a far cry from that wild affair.

It is Real’s third consecutive clean sheet, having failed to keep any in their first five competitive games of the season.

And perhaps most crucially, there was never a period of the game where Madrid lost control.

Too often that has been their downfall, but they played with something that Zidane likes to call “intensity” throughout.

And in the second half they even looked a physical match for Atletico, coming closer than Diego Simeone’s side, who needed an excellent Jan Oblak save to keep Karim Benzema’s header at bay.

Of course, at Real Madrid it’s not enough to merely be on an even keel.

The club must be racing towards success and for that, Hazard will need to hit the heights he showed at Chelsea, the kind of performances that made Madrid pine for him for several years.

Eventually Los Blancos splashed €100 million on the Belgian this summer and so far – granted, it is too early to judge – have been left underwhelmed with their purchase.

Madrid were looking for a player who could put them back on their perch as the kings of Europe, and Hazard has the ability to be that X-factor.

Unfortunately he turned up in the summer several kilos overweight and then suffered an injury on the eve of the season which further set him back.

The forward is still looking for his first goal in a Madrid shirt and, to tell the truth, his first half-decent performance in brilliant white too.

At the Wanda Metropolitano he wasn’t so much swallowed up by the derby as ignored by it, touching the ball occasionally but never decisively, left to flit around the outside.

Even Gareth Bale had more involvement in the game, which, for those who have watched the Welshman over the past few years, may come as a surprise.

Despite his fractured relationship with Zidane, Bale is pulling in the right direction.

Once Hazard finds his footing and puts the wind in Madrid’s sails, the team’s capabilities this season – just how far they can go in the three major competitions – will become more apparent.

On every other count, this is progress for Zidane.



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