Zinedine Zidane and Vinicius Junior have not always seen eye to eye but they could be Real Madrid’s golden ticket to a win in Saturday’s Clasico and move above in-form Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Zidane gambled on Vinicius’ raw talent on Tuesday by starting him up front with Karim Benzema, and the 20-year-old repaid his manager with the two goals that have put Madrid 90 minutes from the Champions League semi-finals.
It’s all a far cry from last July when Zidane left Vinicius out of his starting line-up to face Manchester City and the Brazilian responded by looking at his phone in the dressing room instead of warming-up.
Vinicius Junior repaid Zinedine Zidane's faith in him with two goals against LiverpoolInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
He is an unpredictable talent but looks in confident mood, which will concern Barcelona
Now it’s Zidane’s tactical nous and Vini’s unpredictable talent that threaten Barcelona’s extraordinary run of form. They have not lost in the league since the start of December but they know a trip to the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium is a huge hurdle to cross if they want to win the league this season.
Vinicius has had an odd couple of days after his two goals on Tuesday. He's not used to all the praise. He had only scored four goals all season before this week but now, with six, he’s the club’s level second highest scorer with Casemiro behind Benzema.
He’s used to hearing criticism about how he is still not fulfilling the promise he showed at Flamengo when Madrid signed him for 45m euros (£40m) as an 18-year-old. Some of that stick has even come from his own team-mates – Benzema told Ferland Mendy: ‘don’t give the ball to him’ in the tunnel at half-time against Borussia Mönchengladbach earlier in the season.
But since scoring his first ever brace for Real Madrid’s first team it’s been all praise and he should be full of confidence going into Saturday’s game.
Vinicius fell out with Zidane last year but now could fire him to another El Clasico victory
AS are building up to Saturday's El Clasico by talking up the battle between top scorers Benzema and Messi, but it could be Dembele and Vinicius who decide who ends up winningInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Here is what the top of the LaLiga table looks like ahead of Saturday's crucial El Clasico
Zidane is the best man to help him tap into that confidence and not lose perspective. He may not necessarily be the best of coaches at improving young players but there is no one better to advise them once the praise and expectations come.
Vinicius has started nine of the last 12 games and should make that 10 in 13 for the fixture that could end up deciding the title this season.
Barcelona have their own in form winger-turned-goalscorer. Ousmane Dembele scored in the 90th minute against Valladolid to ensure