Zinedine Zidane Comments on Real Madrid's La Liga Title Challenge

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2016

Real Madrid's headcoach Zinedine Zidane reacts as he watches the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday Feb. 27, 2016. Atletico won the match 1-0.  (AP Photo/Paul White)
Paul White/Associated Press

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has declared his team's hopes of winning this season's La Liga title "finished" after Los Blancos lost the Madrid derby against Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal of the game to leave Zidane's men in third place and nine points behind leaders Barcelona, who have played a game less.

Afterwards, Zidane pulled no punches when assessing the damage done to Real's title chances, per Spanish publication Marca (h/t Football-Espana.net): “The league is finished. Losing at home to Atletico is a very hard blow.”

That assessment already has Zidane thinking ahead to the next campaign: “I have confidence in the players. Things will change next year, and there will be changes."

Changes will be needed, but Zidane may not be the man to make them if he can't improve Los Merengues' results in the league. He at least sounds aware of the pressure: “We’ve got a game on Wednesday. I’m not crazy. It’s a difficult moment, but we have to be professional."

Finally, the Frenchman lamented experiencing defeat for the first time at home since succeeding Rafa Benitez as manager: “Real Madrid will never give up. I have to look for solutions. I wasn’t expecting this. This is the first defeat at home.”

But Atletico's win didn't just damage Zidane's record; it also set an unwelcome piece of club history, per Squawka:

Things could get worse if Barca beat Sevilla at the Camp Nou on Sunday. It would leave Real 12 points adrift of the Blaugrana in La Liga, which would surely serve as an indictment of Zidane's impact since taking charge.

He's produced some big wins against weaker opposition, but he hasn't been able to crack the code against La Liga's tougher teams. Real may need a more experienced and decorated manager to avoid falling further behind Barca and their local rivals Atleti next season.