Zidane: Real Madrid will not switch off ahead of City test

Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos celebrate with the trophy after Thursday’s match. (AFP)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Zidane: Real Madrid will not switch off ahead of City test

  • Real Madrid sit seven points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga after securing only their third league title in 12 years

MADRID: Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday that his players will not be given any holiday after La Liga ends this weekend as Real Madrid turn their attention to their crunch Champions League tie with Manchester City.

Madrid have won La Liga with a game to spare and could rest players for Sunday’s final game away to relegation battlers Leganes. 

But Zidane insists there will be no letup from Monday as Madrid attempt to overturn a 2-1 home defeat to City in the second leg of the last 16 encounter.

“They are not going to have two weeks off,” said Zidane in a press conference on Saturday.

“We have a game tomorrow and then we are not on vacation. Let’s get some rest, but then our minds will be on City.

“The season is not over. We’re going to have a few days off but everyone will be focused on what is a crucial match.”

Madrid sit seven points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga after securing only their third league title in 12 years.

Their success comes after a 10-match winning run since the restart, with the team finding their best form after the three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The title should never be underestimated, especially this one. It has been difficult and we have fought to the end,” Zidane said.

Madrid’s lineup and focus could be crucial to La Liga’s survival race given Leganes are fighting Celta Vigo to avoid the drop. Leganes are a point behind Celta, who play away at bottom club Espanyol.

“We can’t play it differently,” said Zidane.

“One match is left, we must respect that. It is the last game and we have to respect everyone else. We will play it to try to do well.”


Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

Updated 03 December 2020

Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

  • There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game, says Klopp

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp hailed a depleted Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Ajax to reach the last 16 as one of his greatest Champions League nights given the circumstances of a lengthy injury list.

The Reds’ youngsters took their chance to shine as 19-year-old Curtis Jones scored the only goal, while Caoimhin Kelleher kept a clean sheet against the Dutch giants on his European debut.

Victory also ensures Klopp’s men win Group D with a game to spare, allowing the German to give some of his stars a much-needed rest away to Midtjylland next week.

“Honestly, since I am (at) Liverpool, for how it feels, one of the biggest Champions League nights,” said Klopp, who has guided Liverpool to two finals and won the competition in 2019.

“Without supporters in, it was the most important, the most difficult and the most exceptional game.”

Kelleher had to deputize for Alisson Becker, who added to Klopp’s long injury list before kickoff, while Andrew Robertson needed heavy strapping applied to his ankle in the first half.

Liverpool were already without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner through injury.

“There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game,” added Klopp.

“How the kids played. Robbo with a proper knock on the ankle pushing himself through, Hendo (Jordan Henderson) with a proper knock on the back, pushing himself through. Gini (Wijnaldum) I have no words for him, Curtis Jones what a game for a 19-year-old boy. I’m really proud tonight.”

Jones has been one of the beneficiaries of those absentees with many more first-team minutes this season and came closest to breaking the deadlock before halftime when his curling effort came back off the post after just six minutes.

The midfielder was then alive to score the winner just before the hour mark when a lofted cross from Neco Williams appeared easy pickings for Ajax ‘keeper Andre Onana, but he instead tried to let the ball go behind for a goal kick and was caught out when Jones sneaked in at the back post to turn the ball into an unguarded net.

“That’s how it is sometimes, in situations where there are problems there is always an opportunity for someone else and he took it just exceptionally well,” added Klopp.

Ajax had been unbeaten in eight games since losing to at home to Liverpool in October, but they could not find a way past the inspired Kelleher.

All of the young Irishman’s previous appearances had come in domestic cup competitions and he was made to work for his clean sheet on the big stage as he flew to his left to turn Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort behind.

Mazraoui was denied again by Kelleher early in the second half, but David Neres should have swept home the rebound when he hit the outside of the post.

Ajax now must beat Atalanta in Amsterdam next week to make the last 16 and they were left to regret what might have been but for one moment of madness from Onana.

The Spaniard made amends with a great save to turn Roberto Firmino’s effort onto the post to keep Ajax in the game after Liverpool’s best move of the match involving Henderson and Salah.

But Kelleher produced an even better stop two minutes from time to parry Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s powerful header from point-blank range to see Liverpool over the line.

A delighted Klopp ran onto the field to embrace his goalkeeper after the full-time whistle and will hope his squad is in better health for another deep run in the knockout stages come the new year.

“You never know how a boy will react,” said Klopp. “I’m really happy with how calm he was, with how good he was.”