‘We’re not here for a walk,’ Zinedine Zidane says of Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

Real Madrid’s coach Zinedine Zidane attends a press conference on the eve of the Spanish Super Cup semifinal between Valencia and Real Madrid at the King Abdullah Sport City in Jeddah. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2020

‘We’re not here for a walk,’ Zinedine Zidane says of Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Barcelona play Atletico with winners of two semifinals to meet Sunday in final
  • Real will be without the injured Eden Hazard

JEDDAH: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said his team is solely focused on lifting the Spanish Super Cup trophy ahead of this week’s revamped four-team competition taking place in Saudi Arabia.

“We’re not coming here for a walk,” Zidane said at a news conference Tuesday, on the eve of his team’s semifinal against Copa del Rey holders Valencia in Jeddah.

“It’s the first edition in Saudi Arabia and the competition is a great hope. It’s an important competition and we want to give our all to play a good match tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Zidane.

“It’s a one-off match. It’s not like playing in La Liga. We’re both playing away and it’s just one match. Everything changes but our mentality, it doesn’t change.”

Real and Valencia will be joined by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in Saudi Arabia, amid controversy over a tournament held far from home in a country long-condemned for its record on human rights.

Spanish media reported only nine percent of the 12,000 tickets set aside for the four competing clubs had been purchased.

However, the three fixtures at the 62,000-capacity King Abdullah Stadium are expected to be sold out.

Barcelona play Atletico on Thursday with the winners of the two semifinals to meet Sunday in the final.

Real will be without the injured Eden Hazard, while neither Karim Benzema, their top scorer, nor Gareth Bale have made the trip due to fitness problems.

“There are no favorites. The four teams which are here are the four favorites to win it,” said Zidane. “The only thing I’m thinking about is our match tomorrow. It’s a semifinal, but for us, it will be a final.”

Luka Jovic has scored just once for Real since his move from Eintracht Frankfurt in July but the Serbian forward is set to lead the attack in the absence of Benzema.

“Luka Jovic, he’s the future. You have to take it slowly with him,” said Zidane. “He’s a young player who wants to learn and play. He can score goals, but what interests me is the complete player he can become.

“He’s only been with us for five or six months, so a bit of calm is needed.”

Lewis Hamilton on top as Mercedes dominate Formula One opening practice

Updated 03 July 2020

Lewis Hamilton on top as Mercedes dominate Formula One opening practice

  • Lewis Hamilton tops times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at season-opening Austrian Grand Prix

SPIELBERG, Austria: Defending six-time champion Lewis Hamilton topped the times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Formula One roared back at Friday’s opening practice at the belated and surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
Three months after the cancelation of the original campaign starter in Australia and six months on from the last race meeting, it was business as usual for the dominant black arrows with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz.
After a slow start on a damp surface at the Red Bull Ring, following overnight rain, Hamilton, sporting a new Black Lives Matter helmet to match his black race suit, was on the pace immediately in his W11 car of the same color, repainted from silver this year to support equality and diversity.
It was as if the lengthy delay created by the COVID-19 pandemic had no effect on the teams, cars and drivers other than Ferrari whose new SF91 machine was, as forecast, unable to match the pace set at the front by Mercedes.
Ferrari plan to revise their car with updates for the Hungarian race in two weeks’ time following the second event in Austria next week.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who is set to leave the outfit at the end of the year, struggled to 12th, two places behind team-mate Charles Leclerc, in the eerie surroundings of the fan-less circuit in the Styrian Alps where pit-stops were curiously controlled with all the mechanics in masks and protective gear.
In mild weather conditions, with track temperatures measured at 22 degrees Celsius compared to 57 degrees for last year’s race, Mercedes had no cooling problems as Hamilton outpaced Bottas by three-tenths and was six-tenths clear of Verstappen.
Sergio Perez was fifth in Racing Point’s ‘pink Mercedes’ ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Alex Albon in the other Red Bull and McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo of Renault. Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas.
The session saw Verstappen recover from a spin at Turn One and Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri run off at the final corner, causing Williams’ George Russell to take dramatic avoiding action while Romain Grosjean was stuck in the Haas garage with brake problems throughout the session.