Zinedine Zidane spoke to reporters in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday night’s clash between Real Madrid and local side Al Jazira in the Club World Cup semi-finals.
Here are three takeaways from the Frenchman’s chat with the press.
BARCA ON THE BRAIN
He can say what he wants in the presence of cameras and smartphones, but Zidane will have one eye on a festive treat of a Clasico with Barcelona two days before Christmas.
The Los Blancos boss revealed he has a fully-fit squad of 21 players to choose from in the UAE, and that will please him as he will likely be using every single one of them for what will surely be a Club World Cup double-header.
While certain players, such as Gareth Bale, may normally be wrapped in cotton wool, the Frenchman is likely to want to see the Welsh flier return to action in order to assess his fitness ahead of the Clasico, while also giving other players likely to replace him should he not feature at the Bernabeu some valuable rest time.
Zidane: “I’m very happy to have all the players ready. We have 21 training, which is important for a coach.”
ANOTHER TROPHY, ANOTHER RECORD TO CHASE
On the flip side to there being more important games on the horizon, Zidane will also be fully aware that Real can go level with the Blaugrana on three FIFA Club World Cup titles should they win back-to-back trophies.
The Spanish duo and Braziil’s Corinthians are the only sides to win the trophy multiple times, while Real will now victory in Abu Dhabi on Saturday will see them clinch another record by being the only team to retain their trophy.
With that in mind and the wealth of talent at his disposal, not to mention weaker opposition than they normally face, even if Zidane gives his fringe and young players a chance to shine, they should still have too much firepower for a depleted Pride of Abu Dhabi.
Zidane: “We want to defend the title we won last year. For that we have come here, it has been a long trip, it’s a competition we want to win, we want to go back with the trophy.”
📸1📸 الجزيرة #فخر_ابوظبي يجري تدريبه الرئيسي ويختتم استعداداته للمواجهة المرتقبة أمام بطل اوربا ريال مدريد الأسباني غدا في نصف نهائي #كاس_العالم_للاندية في ملعب مدينة زايد الرياضية#الجزيرة_ريال_مدريد pic.twitter.com/QjIr0QB8BA
— نادي الجزيرة 🇦🇪الفخر العالمي🏆 (@AlJazira_uae) December 12, 2017
REAL WARY OF A COSTLY SLIP-UP
They are heavy favourites for Wednesday night’s match, but Real will not need any reminder of the potential banana skin that awaits against not only Hen ten Cate’s side, but in the final should they win.
In last year’s final, they were given a mighty test by Japanese J1 League champions Kashima Antlers. Zidane’s men were taken all the way by the tournament hosts, eventually overcoming them 4-2 after extra time.
It all looked to be going smoothly when Karim Benzema gave Real a ninth minute lead. But that was wiped out in eight second half minutes when Japan international Gaku Shibasaki’s brace saw Kashima take a 2-1 lead.
Ronaldo equalised on the hour but the J1 League champions held on to take the game the distance, with the Portuguese powerhouse completing his hat-trick in the extra 30 minutes to earn Real a hard-fought victory.
Jazira are already severely depleted having come into the tournament without several key players, while rumours abound star man Ali Mabkhout could miss the game. They key component of this team under Ten Cate though is work ethic, and you can be sure they will fight and scrap for everything tonight.
Zidane: “ We have a match against an opponent everyone says will be an easy match. Everyone wants to do their best because it is Real Madrid. It’s the match of the year for them, so we think it will be a challenging match.”
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