Thursday 23 November 2017

Zidane to maintain focus on attack as Real aim to close out Atletico

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid Live RTE2/BT Sp 1, 7.45

Cristiano Ronaldo with Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo with Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Reuters
Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann. Photo: Reuters

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane insists his players have no intention of sitting back on their 3-0 lead over city rivals Atletico at Vicente Calderon tonight when they look to secure a place in the Champions League final.

A hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu last week means the holders are very much on course for Cardiff next month, barring one of the most unlikely comebacks.

Nevertheless, Zidane maintains Los Blancos have to head into the tie with the same mindset which saw them dispose of Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals and keep the pressure on at the top of LaLiga with a 4-0 win at relegated Granada which leaves the destiny of the domestic championship still in their own hands.

"Our idea doesn't change and our way of playing is always to give our best. The message to the players is to continue on the path that we are on and give everything out on the field. We are not going to change the way we play," Zidane said.

"We will try to go in to the game as we have been doing so far. You have to go out on to the field, try to play and do your best to win the game."

No side has ever recovered from a two-goal deficit in the semi-finals, while it is sure to be an emotionally-charged atmosphere in what will be the last European tie at Atletico's intimidating home before the club moves to the state-of-the-art Wanda Metropolitano.

Zidane, though, will not let any talk of a Vicente Calderon swansong or the prospect of a shock result cloud the thinking of his team, who have so far scored in 60 consecutive games.

"I only focus on what we have tomorrow. Things from the outside don't interest me. The players and I are only thinking about the game," he said.

"Atletico will have their weapons and we have to try to continue on our path, which has got us to where we are. We have to give our all from the first minute, we are clear about that." Zidane added: "The injustice would be to not do our best to get to where we are. After nine months, the players work every day with incredible professionalism, but you have to show it every three days in the games.

"We are fortunate enough to be able to show that we are doing well and we must continue to do so."

Defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane have both returned to training, but it remains to be seen whether they will feature at Vicente Calderon, where Zidane is expected to recall his key men having made sweeping changes against Granada. Atletico coach Diego Simeone will be looking for a repeat of the 4-0 home LaLiga win in February 2015 as Los Colchoneros aim to produce the most unlikely of turnaround against their bitter rivals, who came out on top in last season's Champions League final as well as the 2014 triumph in Lisbon.

Midfielder Saul Niguez believes patience will be key, both on the field and in the stands.

"It is a game where we have to give everything for the fans so that they can always be proud of their players," he said.

"Scoring a goal in the first half would give us a lot of strength."

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