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Sunday 17 December 2017

Zidane urges fans to stick with faltering Real side

Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo
Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo

Zinedine Zidane has urged Real Madrid fans to keep the faith, with his European champions coming under increasing pressure to find their sparkle.

Real complete their Champions League group stage at home to Borussia Dortmund tonight with qualification for the last 16 of the competition already secure.

But Madrid have had to settle for the runners-up spot behind Group H winners Tottenham, possibly handing them a more difficult tie in the first knock-out round in February, while their domestic form has been patchy. Champions Real trail LaLiga leaders Barcelona by eight points and Saturday's 0-0 draw at struggling Athletic Bilbao made it only two wins from their last six games in domestic competitions.

But manager Zidane, speaking at his pre-match press conference for the Dortmund game, said: "I see things that other people don't.

"I'd urge Madridismo not to forget what this team has achieved. Others, people who are nothing to do with Real Madrid, they can have their opinions.

"I can't change what people think, I'm not bothered by it. It's the way it goes in this job.

"We're playing OK and I don't care what people are saying on the outside. Hard work is the only way to get out of this situation in LaLiga and find the goals again.

Shape

"We'll keep working at it and I'm sure we'll be there or thereabouts at the end."

Real hit APOEL Nicosia for six in their last Champions League game, but it has been a very different story in LaLiga.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have only scored two league goals each this season. Welshman Bale, who is again absent with a calf injury, has not started since Dortmund were beaten 3-1 in the reverse fixture in Germany on September 26.

"He still hasn't trained with us. He's out on the pitch doing bits, but not alongside the team," Zidane said of Bale.

"We'll see if he can play against Sevilla (on Saturday).

"First he has to train with the group, but he'll certainly be coming to Abu Dhabi (for the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup). I think my team look in good shape but it's true we have to score more goals."

Dortmund have picked up only two points from five games - the same as APOEL - and hope to secure a Europa League spot by finishing third in the group.

"We know they've got a lot to play for," Zidane said.

"We've already qualified but we're focused on giving a good performance.

"We won't consider our opponent's position, we'll only be looking at ourselves, and that means playing a good match."

Dortmund travelled to Spain without Maximillan Philipp, with the winger is set to be out for several months after injuring his knee in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen.

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