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Thursday 29 June 2017

Zidane: We can't rely on the past

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Live TV3/BT Sport (7.45)

Zinedine Zidane. Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Zinedine Zidane. Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane insists his team do not have a psychological advantage over Champions League semi-final opponents Atletico Madrid despite beating them in two finals in three years.

As well as their victories in Lisbon (2014) and Milan (2016), Real knocked out Atletico in the 2015 quarter-finals. Atletico have never lifted European football's most prestigious trophy while Real have won it a record 11 times.

Zidane, however, thinks the past will be irrelevant when the teams meet tonight in the first leg at the Bernabeu.

"It means nothing that we've beaten them in this competition," he told reporters yesterday.

"I'm not thinking about Cardiff (the venue for the final) either. We have to win tomorrow's game. We have prepared well and we are ready.

"Everyone is pumped up and we're ready for the run-in. I wish the game would start now."

The Frenchman confirmed that defender Raphael Varane is fit to play after recovering from a hamstring injury, but Pepe and Gareth Bale will miss the game due to injury.

Isco is likely to start in place of Wales forward Bale after being rested for the 2-1 win over Valencia on Saturday.

The midfielder recalled Sergio Ramos's stoppage-time goal against Atletico in Lisbon that forced the 2014 final into extra-time.

"It still makes my hairs stand up," Isco said.

"It was a really important goal, when he scored it I knew we wouldn't lose. It came at a key moment and I felt like I'd also scored the goal."

Isco also remembered the penalty shootout against Atletico in Milan last year.

"It's the most stressful moment in my entire career," he said. "In those moments I was in my own world, I only remember that when Cristiano (Ronaldo) scored the winning goal we ran to embrace him and it's a moment that I'll never forget."

Zidane, who succeeded Rafael Benitez in January 2016, is aiming for a La Liga and Champions League double in his first full season in charge at the Bernabeu.

The last time Real, level on points with league leaders Barcelona with one game in hand, were crowned champions of Spain and Europe in the same season was 1957-58.

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