— Sports

Madrid turns focus from Super League to Champions League

MADRID (AP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants nothing to do with the Super League. Last week, the Spanish club was doing everything possible to make the controversial breakaway competition happen, attracting attention and trying to convince everyone it was a good idea. On the eve of the Champions League semifinals against Chelsea, Zidane is working hard to avoid it.

“What we have to do is to compete and only think about playing soccer. That’s it,” Zidane said Monday. “If we start to think about everything being said … it would worsen it. We can only think about the match. The referee will do his job. We have to compete as always. We can’t control the rest, so we can’t think about it.”

Tuesday’s first leg against Chelsea in Madrid comes after widespread backlash against the attempt to create the new Super League, which had Madrid president Florentino Pérez as one of its masterminds. Chelsea was among the founding members, but the team pulled out along with the rest of the English clubs immediately after the criticism surfaced.

European governing body UEFA was vehemently against the new soccer competition and threatened to punish those involved. There was even the threat of kicking out of the Champions League the teams that didn’t officially announce they were giving up on the Super League, which is Madrid’s case.

Champions League

“It would be absurd to think that we won’t be in the Champions League next season,” Zidane said. “What we have to do is to continue to stay focused on tomorrow’s match. We can’t control the rest. A lot will be said. We want to see Real Madrid in the Champions League again next year.”

Madrid is playing in the Champions League semifinals for the ninth time in the last 11 seasons, having won four titles. It is coming off two consecutive eliminations in the previous 16, though. Chelsea won the European title in 2012 and made it to the last four again two years later, but it hasn’t returned to the semifinals since then.

“What matters is the present,” Zidane said. “This Chelsea team has done its job in the Champions League and deserves to be in the semifinals. Just like Real Madrid deserves it. Chelsea also is a very experienced team. We will need to play two perfect matches to advance.”

Zidane will likely be able to count on Eden Hazard, the former Chelsea forward who has been marred by injuries with Madrid but will be available to play on Tuesday. On Saturday, he returned to action for a few minutes in the team’s 0-0 draw against Real Betis in the Spanish league. Zidane said the Belgian player could become “very important” for the team in this decisive stage season.

“I talked to him, and he is very motivated,” Madrid defender Raphael Varane said of Hazard. “You are always motivated when playing in a Champions League semifinal, and even more so if it’s against your former club. He knows our opponent very well.”

Madrid will also be boosted by the return of veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, who was rested in the team’s last three games. But because of injuries, Zidane won’t count on left-back Ferland Mendy and captain Sergio Ramos.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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