Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says his team is ready to face Atletico today in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi final at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“We have prepared well and we are ready”, said Zidane, who denied suggestions that Madrid have any psychological advantage over their neighbours.
“Everyone is pumped up and we’re ready for the run-in. I wish the game would start now,” Zidane added.
The Frenchman denied his team have a psychological advantage Atletico despite beating them in two finals in three years.
As well as their victories in Lisbon (2014) and Milan (2016), Real knocked out Atletico in the 2015 quarter-finals. Atletico have never lifted European club soccer’s most prestigious trophy while Real have won it a record 11 times.
Zidane, however, thinks the past will be irrelevant when the teams meet today in the first leg at the Bernabeu.
“It means nothing that we’ve beaten them in this competition,” he told reporters on Monday.
“I’m not thinking about Cardiff (the venue for the final) either. We have to win tomorrow’s game.
The Frenchman confirmed that defender Raphael Varane is fit to play after recovering from a hamstring injury, but Pepe and Gareth Bale will miss the game due to injury.
Isco is likely to start in place of Wales forward Bale after being rested for the 2-1 win over Valencia on Saturday.
The midfielder recalled Sergio Ramos’s stoppage-time goal against Atletico in Lisbon that forced the 2014 final into extra-time. “It still makes my hairs stand up,” Isco told the club website.
“It was a really important goal, when he scored it I knew we wouldn’t lose. It came at a key moment and I felt like I’d also scored the goal.”
Isco also remembered the penalty shootout against Atletico in Milan last year.
“It’s the most stressful moment in my entire career,” he said.
“In those moments I was in my own world, I only remember that when Cristiano (Ronaldo) scored the winning goal we ran to embrace him and it’s a moment that I’ll never forget.”
*Reported by Rik Sharma/ Reuters