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Real Madrid suffer two defeats in three days
Editorial

Real Madrid suffer two defeats in three days

In a span of just three days, Real Madrid have suffered as many defeats as they had throughout the whole of last year, after back-to-back losses to Sevilla in LaLiga and Celta Vigo in the Copa Del Rey.

Zinedine Zidane's men were defeated on just two occasions by Atletico Madrid in the league and Wolfburg in the Champions League last year.

The Merengues then embarked on a record-breaking 40-match unbeaten run, which was abruptly brought to an end when lost 2-1 at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan against Sevilla on Sunday.

Three days later, Los Blancos suffered yet another defeat when Celta Vigo goals by Iago Aspas and Jonny Castro handed the visitors a memorable domestic cup victory.

In doing so, it is the first time Real Madrid have lost two matches in a row under the tutelage of French tactician since taking over from Rafael Benitez just over a year ago.

Zidane: I'm the one responsible and I must find the solution

Celta Vigo handed Real Madrid their second defeat in four days on Wednesday evening, but Zinedine Zidane remains confident that Los Blancos can return to winning ways.

The Frenchman accepted full responsibility for the 2-1 home loss and is targeting a better result in Saturday's LaLiga clash with Malaga.

"I'm the one responsible and I must find the solution," he said in his post-match press conference.

"I wasn't surprised by the way Celta played, as we knew that they're a team that can really hurt you.

"I'm not worried, although it's a bad moment.

"We know that we can overcome it and we are going to overcome it.

"We can go out [to Vigo] and change all of this, although we have a LaLiga match before that."

Asked if the Sevilla defeat had halted momentum and if it had had an impact on this midweek result, Zidane admitted that it might have done.

"It's true that [the Sevilla defeat] upset us and you don't rest as well afterwards, but there are no excuses," he told reporters.

"The way we competed in Sevilla was good, but it wasn't so much today.

"These two teams have hurt us and we must analyse it because something is wrong.

Discussing the match as a whole, the 44-year-old was left confused by the way his side started the game, while he insisted that any drop off in performance had nothing to do with fitness levels.

"It was strange, especially at the beginning, because we didn't play the game we'd prepared," he explained.

"It took a lot for us to get into it.

"We were poor in this game, but not because we are struggling physically."

Speaking about Danilo, who was playing at right-back in place of the injured Dani Carvajal, Zidane was left impressed by his showing and is confident that he can fill in for the Spain international.

"Danilo had a good game today and he'll get another chance to play," those at his press conference were told.

"We'll see what happens in the next match."

Finally, Lucas Vazquez's substitution was also touched upon, with the coach stating that his decision to hook the forward had nothing to do with his performance.

"I didn't substitute him because of his miss," Zidane insisted.

"I saw that he was a little tired, so we changed him to add a little freshness on the right.

"It was just the second match he has played since his injury and we changed him because of that."

Messi should consider Barcelona exit

Not so long ago Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was fairly bullish in his stance on Lionel Messi's future. "We are all convinced that he will end his playing days at the heart of this club. All the socios believe it, it's just a question of how we get over the line," he said in an attempt to stunt the perennial speculation concerning Messi's future. This was in November, but already Bartomeu's remarks seem outdated.

Never before has the prospect of Messi one day leaving Barcelona been so real. Speculation this week has raised the possibility that he could make the move to the Premier League, with Manchester City reported to be leading the chase for the Argentine's signature. Of course, he would be reunited with Pep Guardiola were he to pitch up at the Etihad Stadium.

Of course, this could just be the dance that comes before yet another Messi contract extension at the Camp Nou. That's the way it went for Neymar last year, and so it wouldn't be such a surprise if these rumours linking Messi away from Barcelona are just part of the strategy to get him a new deal at the club.

But if there is an offer on the table for Messi to join Man City, or another Premier League club for that matter, he should at least consider it. For the first time in his career there's a case to be made that he could get more from making a move away from the Camp Nou than staying there.

Messi will most likely go down as the greatest player of all time. He could never kick a ball again and still be considered the most gifted player to have ever played the game. But nonetheless, his legend could be boosted even further by succeeding with another team in another country.

Unless Messi one day makes a move abroad this is something Cristiano Ronaldo will always have over his great adversary, that he has been the best of the best in both Spain and England. If Messi only ever pulls on the colours of Barcelona a lingering question held always against him. It's not that anyone believes Messi wouldn't succeed in the Premier League, but would he be able to continue his supremacy to the same extent in England?

Factor into the whole equation that Barcelona have little to offer him, besides more money of course, and a possible switch to Manchester City, or Chelsea or Manchester United who have also been linked, looks all the more realistic. What does Messi have left to prove at the club, having won eight Liga titles, four Copa del Rey and four Champions Leagues?

There is obviously an appeal that comes with being a one-club man in the mould of someone like Carlos Puyol or Francesco Totti. Messi could become the greatest one-club man of them all should he stay at Barcelona for the remainder of his career. But in the increasingly volatile, increasingly short-sighted modern game the one-club man is becoming a rarity. In many cases, it's just not feasible, and Messi might become one of those cases.

Messi has kept his counsel on rumours linking him most notably with Manchester City, keeping himself to himself as he tends to do. It is not his style to make statements through the media, but there has been nothing from him or his camp to refute any suggestion he might leave Barca

And so the speculation will continue. It once seemed almost fated that Messi would start and finish his career at Barcelona. He is a true giant of the club, defining an era of glittering success more than anyone else - more than Andres Iniesta, more than Xavi Hernandez and perhaps even more than Guardiola.

But just like Guardiola, Messi might find that his time at Barcelona reaches a natural end. That he must challenge himself elsewhere to underline his greatness. Messi could do that at Man City, becoming a giant at another club, in another country. He would be foolish not to even contemplate that thought.

Conte forgives Diego Costa but refuses to forget

The dispute has been put behind them, for now, as striker Diego Costa and coach Antonio Conte made amends on Wednesday, although the player's antics haven't been entirely forgotten by the Blues boss.

After a third attempt, Conte has finally accepted Costa's apology and has publicly embraced his star man, though whether that means both have moved on entirely isn't exactly clear.

Skepticism remains as it could simply be a temporary settling aside of differences until the end of the season, with a Premier League title on the line that requires both to work together.

The squad, therefore, played a large role in this truce and sense of comraderie returning to Cobham, but will it last?

China's offer remains a possibility and Costa could be postulating for an Atletico Madrid return, whereas Conte's strong character shows for a fact that he won't back down in the long-run.

Maradona will be at the Bernabeu for Napoli clash

Napoli and Diego Armando Maradona are practically synonymous in the world of football, and the Italian club will be hoping a club legend like the Argentine can spur on a victory at such a difficult stadium as the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in their upcoming Champions League clash.

The first leg is on February 15th and Maradona has accepted his former club's official invitation.

In fact, the first time the two teams faced each other in European competition was in 1987/88 when Maradona was still a part of the Partenopei.

Between 1984 to 1991, Maradona led Napoli and changed the face of Italian football.

The icon has already spoken with current coach Maurizio Sarri and some members of the squad against the key game.

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