Zidane: Illogical and absurd for Real Madrid not to play Champions League semi-final

By Sports Desk April 23, 2021

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has hit back at UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin's claim that next week's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea might not go ahead.

Ceferin said there was a chance Madrid could be denied the opportunity to continue their bid for a 14th European crown after their president Florentino Perez refused to renounce his plans for a breakaway Super League, despite eight of the 12 teams initially signed up swiftly withdrawing from the project.

Speaking to Slovenian station 24UR, Ceferin conceded there was only "a relatively small possibility that the match isn’t played" but this was enough to draw Zidane's ire.

"It's illogical," he said at a news conference to preview Saturday's LaLiga match against Real Betis.

"We are going to play the Champions League, we have the right and we are going to play it.

"It is an absurd matter. I am not going to go into that. I can only tell you that we are going to prepare to play the Champions League semi-final.

"We have a league game and then we have time for the semi-final. I am not worried.

"They said a lot of things about this matter but we are going to play our semi-final as [we have] the right to play."

Perez has been widely ridiculed after a pair of scattergun media appearances in defence of the Super League – a matter Zidane again sought to prevent his own opinions and Madrid future becoming intertwined with.

"I do not know what will happen in a month or two months. I want to finish the season well and then we will talk about the future and what is going to happen," he said.

"At the moment we are focused on the day to day and tomorrow's game.

"As always, we [Zidane and Perez] talk from time to time and that's it. He comes here to see the team, everyone.

"Nothing has changed. We know where the president is. He wants us to focus on tomorrow's game."

Zidane will welcome back injury-plagued forward Eden Hazard for Betis' visit to Madrid, while Luka Modric is also set to return having missed the 3-0 midweek win over Cadiz due to a back complaint.

Club captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy are out with calf problems but Zidane is hopeful each can play a part against Chelsea.

"I see [Ramos] well, emotionally very well," he said. "He has had problems but he is better.

"He is not with us yet but he has a few days left. I am happy, because we always want him with us. I see him well, little by little. Some workouts are missing. " 

On Mendy, Zidane added: "He will not be there tomorrow. For Ferland it is day to day. I hope he will be with us on Tuesday, but not tomorrow. It is not much [of a problem], it is a matter of days." 

Defending champions Madrid are three points shy of Atletico Madrid at the top of LaLiga with six matches remaining.

Related items

  • Now for the big ones as Ancelotti vows Supercopa is just the start for 'ugly' Real Madrid Now for the big ones as Ancelotti vows Supercopa is just the start for 'ugly' Real Madrid

    Carlo Ancelotti scooped the first trophy of his second reign at Real Madrid and vowed his "ugly" team would go flat out to bring more silverware to the Santiago Bernabeu.

    It had been 18 months since Madrid last won a title, the 2019-20 LaLiga crown in the pandemic-hit season that went into extra time, but a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana final scratched that itch.

    Last term under Zinedine Zidane proved a struggle at times, but there is more zip and panache to the Madrid that Ancelotti has fielded this season. He won four trophies in his first two-year spell at Madrid from 2013 to 2015, and obviously fancies several more this time around.

    Madrid are front-runners in LaLiga, albeit with Sevilla in pursuit, they remain in the Copa del Rey and also have Champions League ambitions ahead of a tough last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

    This trip to Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa should provide a timely lift for Madrid, heading into the business end of the season. Seeing off Barcelona in a testing semi-final was a boon, and Madrid controlled the final against Athletic until flagging in the closing stages.

    "I am very pleased, happy, and we continue," Ancelotti said. "We are going to compete, but being here is lucky. It is an honour to train this team and this club. By the way, we are going to compete for the other competitions.

    "We have the strength to fight for all competitions. This is a team I like to watch play. We don't have just one way of playing, but rather different ones and that is the strength of this team."

    Ancelotti pointed out his personal trophy drought had also ended, after going without such success during spells with Napoli and Everton. It had been four and a half years since he last won any cup, which came at the tail end of his Bayern Munich tenure.

    "I'm not tired of winning, because the last one was a [German] Super Cup with Bayern and I hadn't won for a long time," he said.

    "Winning is the end of the job. Winning means you've done a good job. Sometimes it isn't. I've done a good job at Napoli or Everton and I haven't won anything."

    Ancelotti spared a playful jibe for his team, who appear to have taken kindly to their Italian coach.

    "When you win a lot, you think you're the most handsome, that you play the best football in the world and the sacrifice goes down a bit," Ancelotti said.

    "Fortunately, the sacrifice of our players is high. I think my players are not handsome … they are very ugly."

  • Sacked Benitez did not realise 'magnitude of task' at Everton Sacked Benitez did not realise 'magnitude of task' at Everton

    Rafael Benitez said he did not realise the "magnitude of the task" at Everton after he was dismissed on Sunday following a run of just two wins in 14 games across all competitions.

    The Toffees announced Benitez's departure a day on from losing 2-1 to bottom side Norwich City.

    Former Liverpool boss Benitez was a divisive appointment at Everton when he was drafted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in July.

    They started the season well, winning three of their first four league matches, yet injuries to key players and a dreadful loss of form has seen them slide down the table.

    A win over Hull City in the FA Cup third round offered Benitez a brief reprieve, but defeat to lowly Norwich on Saturday marked a new nadir, and Everton decided to act.

    Benitez cited injuries as a significant factor in their dismal form, and believed they would improve in the second half of the campaign. 

    "We knew it wouldn't be easy, and that it was a big challenge, both emotionally and in terms of sport," he said in a statement posted on his official website.

    "My love for this city, for Merseyside and its people, made me accept this challenge, but it is only when you are inside that you realise the magnitude of the task.

    "From the very first day, my staff and myself worked as we always do, with commitment and full dedication, we didn't only have to get results, but we also had to win over people's hearts.

    "However, the financial situation and then the injuries that followed made things even harder. I am convinced that we would have been better once the injured players were back and with the arrival of the new signings.

    "The road to success isn't easy and sadly, nowadays in football there is a search for immediate results and there is always less and less patience; unfortunately circumstances have determined the results and it won't be possible to continue this project."

    Benitez left the club after a mere 200 days, giving him the third-shortest reign of any Toffees manager in the Premier League with 40 or more days in charge. Only Sam Allardyce (167) and Dave Watson (60) were at the helm for fewer days.

    It was his fourth time in charge of a Premier League club and he departed with comfortably the worst win percentage ratio during his time in England.

    He won just seven of his 22 games in charge, leaving him with a win ratio of 31.8 per cent – significantly behind his records at Liverpool (55.4 per cent), Chelsea (58.3) and Newcastle United (42.5).

  • 'He's worthy of the Ballon d'Or again' – Is Luka Modric coming for Messi's prize? 'He's worthy of the Ballon d'Or again' – Is Luka Modric coming for Messi's prize?

    Real Madrid president Florentino Perez predicted Luka Modric could win the Ballon d'Or for a second time after his masterclass in the Supercopa de Espana final.

    Croatian playmaker Modric scooped France Football's prestigious prize for world player of the year after his dazzling performances at the 2018 World Cup.

    He will turn 37 before the Qatar World Cup in November, but Modric's goal and overall display in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday showed he remains a force.

    Thibaut Courtois saved a late penalty from Raul Garcia as Madrid made sure of a first trophy since Carlo Ancelotti returned to the club for a second spell as coach.

    Asked about Courtois and Modric, Perez said after the game: "Without wanting to brag, they are the two best in their position. The best goalkeeper and Modric in enviable form, worthy of winning the Ballon d'Or again."

    Modric's passing accuracy this season is an outstanding 90.41 per cent, and even in the opposition half it is 89.03 per cent, which are impressive numbers given he plays a lot of high-tariff balls.

    He has created eight big chances for others this season already and has five assists, while the shot he sent arcing past Unai Simon in the 38th minute at the King Fahd Stadium gave Modric a first goal of the season. He took away the most valuable player award from Sunday's game.

    Perez is still probably getting excited too soon, given the Ballon d'Or is an end-of-year prize, but Modric was excellent, and midfield colleague Toni Kroos had a 95 per cent accuracy rate from his game-high 100 passes, helping ensure Madrid had the game tied up before withstanding a late flurry of attacks from Athletic.

    Former Barcelona captain Lionel Messi took the Ballon d'Or for a record seventh time last year, with even Robert Lewandowski's Bayern Munich goalscoring feats not enough to knock the Argentine great off his accustomed top spot in the vote.

     

    Madrid should win more silverware this season. They lead LaLiga, have a Copa del Rey last-16 clash with Elche on Thursday, and remain in the Champions League, albeit with a tough tie against Paris Saint-Germain coming up next in that competition.

    Perez enthused about the prospects for this Ancelotti stint, saying of Madrid's early success: "It means a lot."

    Quoted in Marca, Perez said: "We always want to win everything, they taught us that since we were little. This year it was 60 years since I became a member, and that's how we were educated. I work along the lines that Santiago Bernabeu set for us, and I am happy because we have won the first title."

    Courtois did not particularly guess right for Garcia's penalty, as much as guess late, meaning his outstretched leg could reach the ball down the middle as the rest of his body lurched to the right.

    "I was hesitating between going to the right or staying in the middle," the Belgian goalkeeper told #Vamos, "and that's why I kept my foot there and I was able to stop it. If not, we would have had a heart-stopping final few minutes."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.