'Real's worst season ever?' - Zidane's job now hangs on PSG clash

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After Wednesday night's embarrassing Copa del Rey exit at home to Leganes, the Blancos boss knows that only Champions League glory can save him

How quickly things can change. Real Madrid were on cloud nine after beating Gremio to claim the Club World Cup in mid-December, as they ended 2017 with a club record five trophies. Just a few weeks later, however, their season hangs very much in the balance.

Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to Leganes in the Copa del Rey saw Zinedine Zidane's side crash out of the Copa del Rey on away goals at the quarter-final stage and represents the latest embarrassment in an increasingly calamitous campaign.

Already 19 points behind fierce rivals Barcelona in La Liga, the cup competition was considered a priority by Los Blancos, but it is over before some senior players (such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo) had even made an appearance.

All Madrid needed to do was to avoid defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, after Marco Asensio's late winner at Butarque last week, but even that proved too much to ask as goals from Javier Eraso and Gabriel cancelled out Karim Benzema's equaliser.

So, the thrill of those five trophies in 2017 has rapidly evaporated and, after the match, Zidane was asked if this was the worst season in Real Madrid's history. "I don't know if this is the worst," he replied. "It doesn't matter to me. I have to be positive. It's a very hard blow for us, but the season is not over for us."

It is not, but it could be soon. All that is left now for Zidane's side to play for in terms of silverware is the Champions League and although Los Blancos have won that competition for the past two seasons, this time they face the might of Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

The free-scoring French side have already netted over 100 times this term in all competitions and although they lost to Lyon in Ligue 1 last weekend, they still lead the championship by eight points. Furthermore, in Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, they possess Europe's most exciting attack.

Asked if he will be fighting for his future in the two-legged tie (on February 14 in Madrid and March 6 in Paris), Zidane said: "That is clear. I'm the one who is responsible for this and I'm the one who has to find solutions." 

Madrid GFX

There are plenty of problem areas and Madrid's disjointed displays at the Bernabeu in 2017-18 will be a concern. Real have now lost at home this season to Betis, Barcelona, Villarreal and Leganes, as well as failing to beat Valencia, Levante, Tottenham, Numancia and Fuenlabrada at their famous fortress.

Defensively, Zidane's side has shipped far too many goals in the current campaign as well, with 34 conceded already in their 36 fixtures in 2017-18. Even with Sergio Ramos back in the team on Wednesday, there was no improvement in that area.

Further forward, Ronaldo has been struggling in La Liga and Zidane will hope the Portuguese can continue his better form in Europe after he hit nine in the side's six group games earlier this season - especially now that Gareth Bale and Benzema are back to full fitness.

Leganes

Nereo Champagne Real Madrid Leganes

Those three will be playing for their Madrid futures against PSG, along with Zidane, as they come up against Neymar and Mbappe, two players previously coveted by Real for their forward line.

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A trip to Valencia comes before that in La Liga and with Villarreal and Sevilla just behind Los Blancos in the table, Zidane's side face a fight to finish in the top four this season.

That is a measure of how far this team has fallen after winning a Liga and Champions League double in 2016-17 and with the Copa del Rey now gone, Madrid now need to improve on their league position and start preparing for a what is a season-defining tie against PSG.

Fail to win it and their season will be effectively over on March 6 and surely even Zidane would not be able to survive such a disastrous outcome to what was expected to be an all-conquering campaign for Los Blancos.

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