The top-flight coaching career of Zinedine Zidane began with a bang in Week 19, as the French icon watched his Real Madrid side slam five goals past Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga.
The victory leaves Los Blancos only four points off the top of the table, with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid sat astride above them.
Real play host to Sporting Gijon at the Bernabeu on Saturday, with the guests without a league win in their previous four, losing each match.
Barca will be looking to improve their recent league record, currently with only two wins from their last five La Liga games—according to WhoScored.com—and they face a tough challenge against a dogged Athletic Bilbao at home.
Leaders Atleti travel to the Canary Islands to battle Las Palmas, fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table.
Here is the full schedule for this week's action, including streaming information and score predictions for each fixture:
|Saturday, Jan. 16||3 p.m. (GMT) / 10 a.m. (ET)||Sevilla vs. Malaga||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||2-1|
|Saturday, Jan. 16||5:15 p.m. (GMT) / 12:15 p.m. (ET)||Celta Vigo vs. Levante||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||3-1|
|Saturday, Jan. 16||7:30 p.m. (GMT) / 2:30 p.m. (ET)||Villarreal vs. Real Betis||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||2-1|
|Saturday, Jan. 16||9:05 p.m. (GMT) / 4:05 p.m. (ET)||Real Sociedad vs. Deportivo La Coruna||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||1-1|
|Sunday, Jan. 17||11 a.m. (GMT) / 6 a.m. (ET)||Valencia vs. Real Betis||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||1-0|
|Sunday, Jan. 17||3 p.m. (GMT) / 10 a.m. (ET)||Real Madrid vs. Sporting Gijon||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||5-0|
|Sunday, Jan. 17||5:15 p.m. (GMT) / 12:15 p.m. (ET)||Getafe vs. Espanyol||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||0-0|
|Sunday, Jan. 17||5:15 p.m. (GMT) / 12:15 p.m. (ET)||Las Palmas vs. Atletico Madrid||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||1-2|
|Sunday, Jan. 17||7:30 p.m. (GMT) / 2:30 p.m. (ET)||Barcelona vs. Athletic Bilbao||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||3-1|
|Monday, Jan. 18||7:30 p.m. (GMT) / 2:30 p.m. (ET)||Eibar vs. Granada||Sky Go / beIN Sports Connect||3-2|
Real's Zidane Revolution Set to Catch Fire
There was little surprise when former coach Rafael Benitez was shown the door at Real Madrid, despite producing a respectable record during his short tenure in charge. Los Blancos had lost just three matches in the league under the Spanish coach, but the brand of football was stylistically alien to Madridistas.
Benitez's defensive mindset was impossible to implement at the Bernabeu; a club populated with galactico superstars who know only how to attack and move forward with menace.
Enter Zinedine Zidane back on to the first-team coaching staff, a role he departed after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked at the end of last season. The Frenchman has been in charge of Real's Castilla team and now has the chance to take the reins as manager of Los Blancos.
Zidane has the ideology to play attacking football, and it is president Florentino Perez's first attempt at installing a genuine galactico as first-team coach. The move reflects Pep Guardiola's ascension at Barcelona, promoting within the ranks to push forward a former playing legend.
Real made short work of their first opponent under Zidane's command, trouncing Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 at home as Madrid returned to their attacking mandate.
Gareth Bale produced possibly his best performance in Los Merengues shirt, scoring an emphatic hat-trick, mirroring the kind of form usually reserved exclusively for Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Welshman lauded his new coach after his fabulous performance to claim the match ball but refused to comment on the outgoing Benitez, as quoted by Reuters (via Eurosport):
I'm very happy that we got the three points and it was a very important victory. We had a good game. Now we must continue working hard and winning games.
Everyone knows Zidane was a great player and I'm sure he'll also be a great coach, but we're all professionals and we work hard to try to win every match and every trophy.
We must continue in this way, as we did before. Nothing has changed and [Saturday] was no different.
These things happen [regarding Rafa Benitez's dismissal]. We must move forward.
It wasn't my decision and I don't have an opinion.
The hat-trick took Bale past 50 goals for his club, according to David Bowers of Sky Sports, and places the winger on the cusp of the quality needed to succeed Ronaldo as Real's chief galactico.
Barca and Atletico Madrid are ticking along splendidly above Zidane's men, but that could all change when relegation candidates Sporting Gijon visit the Bernabeu.
The Catalan giants welcome Athletic Club to the Camp Nou, and Atleti face a tricky away day at Las Palmas, with negative results sure to open the door for Real.
Zidane's men could leapfrog over the Blaugrana by the end of the weekend, firing Madrid's bid to wrestle La Liga title back into their hands. Real's defensive issues still remain, as previously identified by Benitez, but the flavour of their play against Depor displayed how Los Blancos should be playing every week.
Will Zidane win a trophy in his first season in charge?
Atleti are value for money at the top of the table, but Real hold a significant goal difference advantage over their neighbours, giving them the impetus to close the current gap of four points.
The attacking contingent under Zidane will ensure Madrid go close to the title this term, as the feel-good factor washes over the club.
However, Barca will want to repeat their treble success of last season and will have extra motivation now their old adversary Zidane is overseeing proceedings in the Spanish capital.