Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium was the scene of Zinedine Zidane’s last stand as Real Madrid coach before resigning in stunning fashion in May 2018 and the arena could spell the start of the end for his second tenure after Tuesday’s defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk.
The 2-0 loss left Madrid potentially staring at an exit from the Champions League group stage for the first time but even if they manage to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach next week and progress, it might not be enough to save Zidane.
Zidane shocked the football world by quitting as Madrid coach after winning a third successive Champions League crown by beating Liverpool in the Ukrainian capital in 2018. However, he insisted there was no chance of him throwing in the towel this time.
But according to the Spanish media, Madrid president Florentino Perez may make the decision for him.
“Zidane is in serious danger”, said newspaper El Mundo.
“The defeat was so damning it was hard to count the number of people responsible. Zidane is tasked with fixing things urgently, but the coach may not even make it for the last group game. Right now his presence against Gladbach is at risk.”
Daily El Pais added: “With so little, an ordinary Shakhtar left Madrid shaking.”
This was Madrid’s fifth defeat in 11 matches and while they could point to the absences of key players such as captain Sergio Ramos, right back Dani Carvajal and record signing Eden Hazard, their problems run deep.
Raphael Varane, a four-time Champions League winner and World Cup champion, yet again lost focus at a crucial moment to allow Dentinho to score the opening goal and without Ramos by his side is looking increasingly vulnerable.
Perhaps more concerning is Madrid’s inability to create danger.
Karim Benzema is their only real threat and has only just returned from three weeks out, while Marco Asensio is not the same player since missing most of the last campaign with a serious knee injury.
Zidane’s power as a motivator and problem-solver also seems to be waning, evidenced by Madrid’s lethargic performance in the second half.
The Frenchman has won three Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles in around four years as manager across two spells, but his record will count for little if he cannot turn things around in an unforgiving trio of upcoming matches.
Madrid visit an in-form Sevilla on Saturday searching for a first league victory in four matches, before Wednesday’s crunch match at home to Gladbach with their unblemished Champions League record on the line. They then face Atletico Madrid.