MADRID (AP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants nothing to do with the. Last week, the Spanish competition happen, attracting attention and trying to convince everyone it was a good idea. On the eve of the , 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, which had Madrid president Florentino Pérez as one of its masterminds. Chelsea was among the , but the team pulled out along with the rest of the English clubs immediately after the criticism surfaced.
EuropeanUEFA 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 up on the Super League, which is Madrid’s case.
“It would be absurd to think that we won’t be in thenext 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 again next year.”
Madrid is playing in thefor 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 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 theand 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 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. 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,”said of Hazard. “You are always motivated when playing in a 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, 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.
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