As the calendar flipped from 2016 to 2017 it marked not only a new year, but January 4th marked the 365th day that Zinedine Zidane had taken over as Real Madrid manager for Rafa Benitez. Throughout those 365 days Zidane has received as much criticism as he has praise, winning titles and matches but not always with the pinaché that Real Madrid fans would like.
These Madrid fans can be quite the stick in the mud, but all in the Spanish capital seems to be positive vibes around Zidane now, could it simply be that the Spanish are in the holiday spirit? More likely its the now 39 matches since los blancos have suffered a defeat in any competition, after Saturday's 5-0 dismantling of bottom feeder Granada. 39 matches the record set by rival Barcelona, and come after Madrid celebrated taking hom the Club World Cup championship over the Christmas holiday. Normally the championship is but a formality for whomever the European champion is, but Japanese team Kashima proved to be tougher than expected. Though Madrid took home the trophy thanks in large part to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick.
In their first domestic league match of 2017, Isco made a rare appearance and took advantage of the chance in front of the home crowd by notching a brace. The Malagueño opened the scoring in the twelfth minute before following with his second goal in the thirtieth. Karim Benzema, Casemiro and of course Ronaldo rounded out the five goals, extending Real Madrid's league lead over Barcelona to six points.
Earlier in the week Zidane and his men returned from their abbreviated holiday break to take on Sevilla in the first leg of their Copa del Rey draw. James Rodriguez came off the bench as Ronaldo took the night off and the Colombian rewarded his manager with two spectacular goals to carry his team to a 3-0 victory. Sevilla is a pesky side however, and could prove to be a spoiler for Real in the coming weeks. The second leg of their match up takes place Thursday in Sevilla, before the two sides turn around and play each other again three days later in domestic league competition.
Giving a team with Sevilla's quality that many cracks at Real in such a small window only increases their chances of coming away with at least one win against the league leaders. If Real Madrid come away unscathed with the unbeaten streak intact to boot, that might be one of Zidane's greatest feats of his managership thus far.
Photo: Flickr/Nazionale Calcio