No Real edge for new Madrid semi-final showdown, says Zidane
Past Champions League glory over Atletico Madrid is of no advantage to Real Madrid for Tuesday’s semi-final, first leg between the pair, Real boss Zinedine Zidane claimed on Monday.
Real have beaten Atletico in each of the past three seasons in the Champions League, including twice in the final in agonising circumstances for the red and white part of Madrid in 2014 and 2016.
“What happened in the past is in the past, we can’t rely on that now,” said Zidane on Monday.
“It has been positive for us, but now it is a completely different tie and they will be doing their upmost to go through as well.
“The extra motivation comes from it being a Champions League semi-final.”
Both sides are seeking historic firsts as Real eye a 12th European crown in Cardiff on May 3 by becoming the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.
Meanwhile, Atletico are still seeking their first ever Champions League win and are sure to be fired up by the chance to finally avenge their European heartbreak against their fiercest rivals.
Atletico led until the 93rd minute of the 2014 final when Sergio Ramos’s header sparked a Real fightback as they went onto win 4-1 in extra-time.
A year later Javier Hernandez got the only goal of a bad-tempered tie as Real progressed 1-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.
And in last season’s final, Real emerged victorious in a penalty shootout in Milan after a 1-1 draw.
“It was the most stressful moment in my entire career,” Madrid playmaker Isco said of the shootout.
“I’ve been in Madrid for four years and in each of the four we’ve faced them in the Champions League. Hopefully the outcome will be the same as in previous years.
“They’ll be desperate to beat us after the two Champions Leagues that we’ve won.”
Gareth Bale and central defender Pepe are Real’s only injury absentees.
Isco is expected to take Bale’s place, whilst the fit again Raphael Varane will replace Pepe in the only two changes Zidane is likely to make from the side that started a 1-1 La Liga draw against Atletico at the Bernabeu just over three weeks ago.
Atletico have more injury worries as Jose Maria Gimenez suffered a groin problem in Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Las Palmas to join right-backs Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko on the sidelines.
Diego Simeone will therefore be forced into a defensive reshuffle with Stefan Savic, a centre-back by trade, moved to right-back with Lucas Hernandez partnering Diego Godin at the heart of the defence.
Yannick Carrasco is also a major doubt after the Belgian winger suffered a collarbone injury in last week’s 1-0 defeat to Villarreal.
The return of Kevin Gameiro, though, was a huge boost for Simeone as the French international scored twice in his first start for six weeks at the weekend.
And Zidane expects another tightly contested battle between the two most consistent sides in the Champions League over the past four years.
“In the past four or five years they have been a very good side that has improved every year,” added the Frenchman.
“They always gives us a hard game. The strength they have is that they never give up, no matter what happens. They fight, battle, they know their strengths and use them as best they can.”