Zidane’s Real Madrid wary of ‘unknown’ Atalanta
Zinedine Zidane said Tuesday that Real Madrid were preparing for a “different game” against an Atalanta side the Spanish giants meet for the first time in the Champions League in Italy midweek.
“For us it’s a different game, we don’t know our opponent. We have to adapt to this type of game that Atalanta has, to play our football,” said the French coach on the eve of the last-16 first leg.
“Atalanta have proved their worth in the last year.
“They are a very attacking team, made up of excellent players, they are solid and compact.”
Zidane has led Real to three of their record 13 European Cup titles, consecutively between 2016 and 2018.
But Real arrive in northern Italy with a long injury list including Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal.
“It’s true there are a lot of players not available but we’ll do with those that we have, we’ve prepared well for this match,” continued Zidane.
“We have the right experience, we hope to reach the final. Real Madrid is like this, we go out on the pitch to win.
“Tomorrow will be a good game to continue what we’ve been doing lately.”
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini insisted Real would not be hampered by their injuries as the team “transform” in the competition.
The Italian club, whose only major silverware was the Coppa Italia nearly six decades ago, reached the quarter-finals last season before a last-gasp loss to Paris Saint-Germain.
“Real Madrid transform in the Champions League compared to the league, the match against Inter Milan was a game of great quality and personality,” said Gasperini of the Spanish champions’ group wins over Antonio Conte’s Italian league leaders.
“I don’t believe much in these (injury) absences.
“They take away important players and talent, but it seems to me that the Real Madrid team has been able to become more humble and in fact have risen a lot in the league table.
“I’m convinced we’ll find a team that is even more focused and determined.”
Gasperini said he would rather face Zidane as a coach than a player.
“If he were to play, I would be very worried. Luckily he will remain on the bench,” said the 63-year-old Gasperini of the former Juventus and Real Madrid player.
Gasperini recalled that when he coached the Juventus youth team he often went to watch Zidane, 48, training with the senior side.
“He was an absolutely top-class player for whom I find no comparison. Then as a coach he continued to win, right from the start, it means he has a DNA of football.”
Zidane laughed off Gasperini’s praise.
“Luckily I’m not playing, I’m cooked,” he said.
“Gasperini did a great job with the Juventus Primavera.
“He was doing great things and he kept doing them, I like him as a coach.”
For Gasperini, the important thing is to remain in the tie going into the second leg in Madrid on March 16.
“Qualification will be decided there, tomorrow is only the first half of the match,” he added.
Colombian forward Luis Muriel said he was relishing taking on Real Madrid again having spent 18 months at Spanish club Sevilla.
“Playing against Real Madrid is always prestigious. With Sevilla we won 3-2 at home playing a great game,” said the 29-year-old.
“Real don’t stop being a great team even if they have many injuries,” added Muriel, who has scored 17 goals so far this season including two in the Champions League.
“The history of Real is clear, when they don’t play well in the league then they reach the Champions League and pull the rabbit out of the hat.”
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