Monday 23 October 2017

We are not favourites, insists Zidane ahead of Madrid derby

We’re not favourites. It’s 50-50, as it always is in the knockout stages,” said Zidane. Photo: Getty
We’re not favourites. It’s 50-50, as it always is in the knockout stages,” said Zidane. Photo: Getty

Jamie Holland

Zinedine Zidane does not think Real Madrid are favourites in their Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, despite his side holding the upper hand in recent meetings with their city rivals.

Tonight's first leg at the Bernabeu sees the teams meet in the competition for the fourth successive year. Real have won on all three previous occasions, including in finals in 2014 and 2016 as well as a quarter-final in between.

"We're not favourites. It's 50-50, as it always is in the knockout stages," said Zidane.

"We know each other very well. The rivalry with Atleti hasn't changed since I was a player. It's intense, but the rivalry remains the same.

"We need to do everything well. We have to prove we are good enough.

"We will do everything in our power to win this game and we can't think about the return leg yet.

"To make it through to the semi-finals means you have done a very good job. We hope to go another step further.

"Atletico Madrid in the last four or five years have been very good, they get better every year and they are a tough test.

"Atletico never give in, they keep fighting and they know what their strengths are. They are very good at getting the best out of their side. But we have got plenty of strengths too.

"We know how they play, their strengths and weaknesses - and they know ours. We cannot invent anything new. We are looking forward to the tie, that is for sure and, whatever we do, we have to play to our full potential."

Zidane has been boosted by the news that Raphael Varane is fit after a hamstring injury. However, fellow centre-half Pepe is not available.

Zidane gave little away about his team selection, refusing to be drawn on whether Isco or James Rodriguez would replace the injured Gareth Bale.

Atletico look like they will have defensive problems at the Bernabeu, with Jose Gimenez and Juanfran likely to miss out.

With Sime Vrsaljko already out, centre-half Gimenez was filling in at right-back for Jaunfran against Las Palmas on Saturday when he was injured.

Without any right-back available, manager Diego Simeone could switch Stefan Savic and bring youngster Lucas Hernandez into the middle, although it is unlikely he would break up the trusted Savic-Diego Godin partnership for such a big game.

Simeone said: "I see a match in which they make a strong start. They will try to hurt us in the first minutes with the intensity of their players.

"We will have to take the match to where we feel more comfortable.

"Two very big teams are going to play each other.

"We will put together a team that competes with the heart of any fan of Atletico de Madrid."

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid,
Live, TV3, 7.45

Irish Independent

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