Zinedine Zidane is adamant that Real Madrid are just going through a “difficult time” and insists everyone needs to “man up”.
Los Blancos are going through a rough patch, with several stars out injured and heading into Sunday’s trip to Sevilla on the back of a resounding 3-0 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Not only has the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium not been a happy hunting ground in the past, but they will also come up against some familiar faces, including former players Javier Hernandez and Sergio Reguilon, as well as former coach Julen Lopetegui.
Lopetegui was sacked last October, with Santiago Solari replacing him before Zidane returned towards the end of the campaign. But he is now under pressure following a poor start, while Sevilla are in dangerous form.
The rumours about him being replaced are unstoppable. However, Zidane said: “I think the club will be with me until the last minute. That’s our strength, to back each other up. And if that’s not the way it is, I’d better get out.”
Asked if he regrets having come back to the Bernabeu, the Frenchman added: “I made the decision to come back here because it was a new project, something new, and that’s it. Now I’m here, at the most difficult time, but I’m going to always try to make it.
“Not only when it’s easy, when we win. Winning is easy for everyone. But at the difficult times is when we have to man up, all together.”
Julen Lopetegui has described football as being like a “melon” and claims there is no extra motivation to beat his former team Real Madrid.
Former Los Blancos boss Lopetegui is now in charge at Sevilla and they host Zinedine Zidane’s side on Sunday. It will be Lopetegui’s first game against his former club after being sacked as Real manager last season.
It was a messy few months for Lopetegui who arrived after being dismissed by Spain just two days before the start of the 2018 World Cup, due to him signing a deal to take over the Madrid giants on the eve of the tournament. However, he only managed the club for four-and-a-half months before being replaced in October.
The 53-year-old has found some sort of stability in the Andalusian capital, with Sevilla undefeated in La Liga with three victories and one draw this season.
On Sevilla being favourites to win the game, Lopetegui said: “You are the ones who are making the headlines. If I would be giving me a goal or a point, I would be happy to do it, but that’s not the case.
“The football matches are like a melon. You don’t know how sweet they are until you try them. So, we will have to give our best tomorrow. There’s no point on talking about expectations in a game against Real Madrid. They are a great team and we are too.”
Last time Real won at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan was back in 2015. Since then Sevilla have won the four ensuing encounters.
A humbling night in Paris on Wednesday spoke volumes of the dire situation Real Madrid find themselves in.
Their 3-0 Champions League defeat away to a depleted Paris Saint-Germain was a jarring result and one of the worst of Zinedine Zidane’s troubled second coming.
The three-times winner of the competition from 2015-18 with Los Blancos has struggled to get his house in order, winning just seven of his 16 games in all competitions since March’s reappointment. This win rate of just 43.75 per cent makes for poor reading especially since the man he replaced, Santiago Solari, was sacked following a record of 68.75 per cent from 32 games.
Having scored for AC Milan in a 5-0 demolition of Madrid in the 1988 European Cup semi-final, Ruud Gullit has witnessed the Spanish giants suffer in a competition they’ve enjoyed so much success first hand.
Just why the Frenchman’s second stint with Los Blancos has even materialised after stepping aside following a miraculous hat-trick of Champions League titles remains a source of confusion for the Netherlands icon.
“It’s a hard job for him,” the 57-year-old said speaking at the DSA Open – part of the DHL Swing Against Cancer Golf Series – at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.
“I’m surprise that he did it. If you win three Champions Leagues in a row, why do you go back? To do what? Now there’s talk about whether he will last until Christmas. You don’t want that.”
A former midfield stalwart himself, Gullit was quick to praise the performers in the middle of the park for PSG where he believes the Ligue 1 champions were the superior force.
He said: “They (PSG) had players who wanted to show themselves. In midfield they were outstanding – hard work, good technique. That was the key difference – midfield.”
Incidentally, that’s the same area in which Madrid have been found wanting. They failed to land Paul Pogba from Manchester United during a summer in which they were also heavily linked to Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen.
Madrid are still stocked with quality, but Gullit believes a part of the squad has gone stale and, especially in midfield, reinforcements are required.
He said: “There are a lot of players there who have been there for a long time and they’re good but sometimes you need new players to keep them on their toes and get better.
“That’s what they need and Real Madrid are in a transition. He (Zidane) has to sort out his midfield.”