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 By Rob Train

Cristiano Ronaldo far from his best in La Liga losing return for Real Madrid

Real's poor recent run of form continued, as Cristiano Ronaldo's return to league action couldn't prevent a narrow loss.
Real's poor recent run of form continued, as Cristiano Ronaldo's return to league action couldn't prevent a narrow loss.
The FC crew dive into Madrid's shock 1-0 loss to Real Betis, and what Zidane can do to turn the ship around quickly.

Real Betis upset the odds and recorded their first victory in 20 years at the Bernabeu -- fairly and squarely -- as Real Madrid's inauspicious start to their La Liga title defence took another body blow. Tonny Sanabria is the man who won't have to pay for dinner in Sevilla any time soon with the Paraguay international scoring a stoppage-time winner.

Positives

Real did not play poorly and created plenty of chances. Of their 27 shots, though, only seven were on target, and as the enormity...

Marco Asensio's road to Real wasn't easy but he's now poised for greatness

Relive Asensio's wonder goal during the Super Cup, and delve into the FC crew's thoughts about his future at Real Madrid.
The FC crew evaluate Real Madrid's win over Sociedad, including Gareth Bale's goal and the emergence of Borja Mayoral.
Zinedine Zidane believes Gareth Bale can use jeers from fans to improve his game, just as Zidane did during his playing days.
Zinedine Zidane admits he is not surprised by the comparisons made between Marco Asensio and Lionel Messi.

Watch him play and there's an unadulterated freshness to him, a nothing-is-impossible vibe that gets crowds -- even those used to watching Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric on a weekly basis -- on their feet.

It's fun. It's innocent. It's a kid playing unbridled football and doing it with joy. Sometimes it feels as if Marco Asensio popped out fully formed, perhaps straight from a Japanese cartoon, as if he'd been playing alongside Captain Tsubasa until last year. But that's not who...

 By Rob Train

Mayoral proving he can take Morata's place backing up Benzema in Madrid

The FC crew evaluate Real Madrid's win over Sociedad, including Gareth Bale's goal and the emergence of Borja Mayoral.

Speaking before Real Madrid's 3-1 victory in Anoeta, Zinedine Zidane expressed his faith in Karim Benzema's understudy, Borja Mayoral. That faith manifested itself in a first start of the season for the 20-year-old striker and Zidane reaped his reward as Mayoral scored one and forced a second off Sociedad defender Kevin Rodrigues, handing his side a 2-1 lead at the break.

Mayoral might not have been in Zidane's line-up at all but for the late withdrawal of Toni Kroos from the squad, forcing the...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Trending: Ronaldo set to make La Liga return, Manuel Neuer ruled out

Ernesto Valverde says inexperience played a part in the injury that has sidelined Ousmane Dembele for the next four months.

Tuesday's latest stories from the world of football in ESPN FC's What's Trending...

REAL MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo is finally set to play his first La Liga game of the season against Real Betis on Wednesday, with coach Zinedine Zidane "happy" to have him back in the side.

- Zinedine Zidane has rejected the suggestion that Gareth Bale is only effective on the counter-attack and backed him to get back to top form.

- Flamengo coach Reinaldo Rueda says Vinicius Junior has reacted well to...

Do Real Madrid need to sign a backup No. 9 or is Borja Mayoral enough?

Zinedine Zidane reflects on Gareth's Bale's goal and performance in Real Madrid's 3-1 win at Real Sociedad.
The FC crew evaluate Real Madrid's win over Sociedad, including Gareth Bale's goal and the emergence of Borja Mayoral.

"You can say we lack a No. 9, and maybe we do," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said last week, after the club's usual centre-forward Karim Benzema was ruled out for a month with a hamstring problem, following Cristiano Ronaldo's five-game suspension for pushing a referee.

Speaking ahead of the Champions League holders' return to the competition, Zidane went on to explain that he had hoped last year's backup option Alvaro Morata would stay, and then more or less confirmed that when the Spain striker...

Ernesto Valverde must aim to match Zinedine Zidane level in La Liga

Ernesto Valverde says inexperience played a part in the injury that has sidelined Ousmane Dembele for the next four months.

Such has been Zinedine Zidane's "Midas" touch since taking over at Real Madrid in January 2016 that any club wishing to wrest La Liga or the Champions League will need to have a coach who wins one-vs.-one battles with the Frenchman -- before and during matches.

That goes for Diego Simeone, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Unai Emery and, particularly, Ernesto Valverde because they comprise the only other managers, whose teams I can conceive of conquering Europe this season (Simeone and...