El Clasico: Quique Setien knows better than most how to beat Zidane's Real Madrid

By Joe Wright 29 February 2020 3
El Clasico: Quique Setien knows better than most how to beat Zidane's Real Madrid

Real Madrid and Barcelona are level on 72 LaLiga wins each in El Clasico, but Zinedine Zidane's side are facing an unwanted record on Sunday.

Madrid are winless against their rivals in seven league matches, meaning failure to beat Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend will set a new worst record for the club in Clasico history.

Not only that, but the Catalans are on a four-game winning streak in league trips to Madrid, and they have a man in charge who could be well placed to extend that run.

Quique Setien has faced Madrid eight times as a head coach in LaLiga and, as history shows, he has something of a knack when it comes to giving Los Blancos a tough time.

MADRID ARE SICK OF THE SIGHT OF SETIEN

"I'm blown by the north wind; I don't go down easily," Setien said last month amid growing unrest behind the scenes at Barca, as Eric Abidal and Lionel Messi began to play out a row in public.

That was not a problem of Setien's making, but Madrid would do well to heed his words - not that they need reminding about his pedigree.

In his eight previous visits to the Santiago Bernabeu as a coach, Setien has won two, drawn two, and lost four. That might not sound hugely impressive for a team such as, say, Barcelona - but what about Las Palmas and Real Betis?

In 2015-16, Setien's Canary Islanders went down 3-1 to Rafael Benitez's Madrid. The following season, with Zinedine Zidane in the opposite dugout, the scoreline was reversed, Las Palmas on the brink of a stunning victory only for Cristiano Ronaldo to score twice in the closing minutes.

His next visit came with Betis in September 2017, when Antonio Sanabria scored in the dying seconds to snatch a famous win. Then, on the final day of last season, Setien was celebrating again at the Bernabeu, this time as Loren Moron and Jese Rodriguez sealed a fully deserved 2-0 triumph.

"To the teams that I have been to lately," he said, "I have guaranteed only one thing, and that is that my team is going to play well." Madrid need no reminders.

STANDING UP TO BARCA SCRUTINY

One of the reasons behind Setien's appointment was to ensure a return to a Johan Cruyff-esque brand of football, removed from Ernesto Valverde's pragmatism.

Setien's method might just bring the boldness Barca will need to beat a Madrid team still smarting from the way they lost to Manchester City.

Setien has lost only half of his trips to the Bernabeu, the same ratio as Luis Enrique, who won two and lost two of his four games there. It's also a notable improvement on Valverde's record: he won nine of his 29 visits with Barca, Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol, losing 15 times and conceding 52 goals.

If there was any greater argument for Setien to stick to his principles of attacking, possession-based football, he need look no further than the man who made the approach his own in the modern game. Pep Guardiola has won 10, drawn four and lost only four of 18 games at the Bernabeu as a head coach.

Batten down the hatches – the north wind is coming.

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Joe Wright

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