Only victory on Zidane’s mind

Only victory on Zidane’s mind

MADRID • Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said he is not contemplating losing his job if his side fail to progress from the Champions League group stage.

The 13-time European champions, who have never failed to make it to the last 16, host Group B leaders Borussia Monchengladbach today in the final group game needing a win at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium to make sure of progress.

Anything less could open the trap door depending on Shakhtar Donetsk’s result at Inter Milan.

Monchengladbach are ahead by a point on eight with Shakhtar above Real – both are on seven points – on the basis of a superior head-to-head record. Inter, with five points, are also still in the running.

Local media reports have suggested Zidane will be sacked should the Spanish champions drop into the Europa League for the first time since the 1994-95 season.

However, the Frenchman insisted his only focus is on getting the victory, rather than his future.

“The club will do what they have to do (in the event of not qualifying), as they always do, but I’m only thinking about the game,” Zidane said at his virtual press conference yesterday. “I’m not thinking about anything else other than winning. I’m focused on tomorrow’s game and we know what we have to do. It’ll be tough, but we need to be able to walk off the pitch satisfied with our work.

“We know there’s another game going on but we’re only thinking about our game. We know exactly what the situation is. We want to get the three points and finish top of the group; that’s what we’re all thinking about. All matches are important but this is a great chance to show what we are as a team.”

On whether he would hold any grudges should he get booted out despite 11 trophies, including three straight Champions League titles with Real, Zidane said: “What happened in the past is in the past. Tomorrow is a game to show what we can do. I’m sure we’ll have a great game tomorrow.”

Zidane will be boosted by the return of captain Sergio Ramos after a six-game absence and defender Dani Carvajal following a four-game spell on the sidelines.

While the pressure is on Real, Gladbach coach Marco Rose is wary of a backlash from the hosts, who have been stung by criticism of their patchy form.

The German Bundesliga outfit have never gone past the group stage of the Champions League – they last reached the European Cup knockout stage in 1978 – yet they only require a draw to book their slot. But playing for a point is “never a wise decision”, admitted Rose.

“Such teams function best under pressure,” he said yesterday. “We also saw that against Inter Milan (Real won both legs). We know what to expect and that we will need to defend really hard and with passion.”

In Group A, Atletico Madrid travel to Austria knowing they need to avoid defeat at Red Bull Salzburg to advance as runners-up behind European champions Bayern Munich.

REUTERS, XINHUA

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