Zidane expects Real Madrid to be severely tested by Al Jazira in Fifa Club World Cup semi-finals
Manager says opponents usually put their best foot forward against the reigning champions, and the Abu Dhabi side will be no different on Wednesday night
Heavy favourites going into Wednesday’s Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against Al Jazira, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has told his players to guard against complacency when they take on the hosts in Abu Dhabi.
The defending champions, seeking to become the first team to successfully defend the trophy, are widely expected to overcome their UAE counterparts at Zayed Sports City.
Madrid know well not to underestimate any opponents, though, especially since they were made to work for last year’s title in Japan. In the final, they were pushed to extra-time by Kashima Antlers, the home country’s representatives, before eventually triumphing 4-2.
A former star player for the Bernabeu club before becoming manager early last year, Zidane is well aware Jazira will do all that they can to raise their game on Wednesday.
“For us, we know there is not any match that is easy,” said Zidane in the capital on Tuesday. “We have a semi-final against an opponent that everybody says is going to be an easy match for us. If we think so we will be wrong because we don’t think it’s going to be easy. On the contrary, we think it will be hard.
“As you could see last year in the competition, or whenever we play in any competition, when you play against Madrid everybody wants to do their best. Anything can happen in football.
"That’s why we have to be very well concentrated, very well prepared and that is what we’re trying to do lately.”
Jazira set up match, regarded as one of the most significant in UAE club football, by defeating this past week Oceania champions Auckland City and Urawa Red Diamonds, the freshly minted Asian Champions League winners.
Madrid are another proposition, however, with the Spanish heavyweights not only the reigning Club World Cup champions, but the Primera Liga champions and the winners of the Uefa Champions League earlier this year.
“Since we got to know who was our opponents, we had to study this team,” said Zidane, who emphasised that all focus in on the Club World Cup and not next week’s El Clasico with Barcelona.
“Before I didn’t know Al Jazira, but now I know them much better.
“It is a team that is going to do its best, to fight and to take their chance to play against our team. For them it is the match of the year, to play against Real Madrid. So we have to be ready and to think it will be a challenging match.
“We are already in the mindset for tomorrow. We are perfect. For me, that’s the most important. The rest, the opponent and everything else, we study as we always do. But as usual, the most important is what we’re going to do ourselves.”
Zidane reported that he has a full squad from which to choose, with Gareth Bale and Rafael Varane, two recent injury concerns, involved in training since the team touched down in Abu Dhabi.
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The Frenchman will be happy to have those two back in contention, if not just for Wednesday, but for Saturday’s final should Madrid get through. Reach that, and the side will be a solitary match away from capturing a fifth trophy in 2017 - unprecedented for the famous Spanish club.
Asked if success on Saturday would make the year the finest in Madrid’s long history, Zidane said: “I don’t believe so, because Madrid is Madrid. It has always been big and it will always be big.
“But yes, of course it motivates me and all the players. We have a title to contend, we’re looking for it and we want to defend the trophy we won last year. We have come here for that. It’s a long trip, so we all want to go back with the trophy and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
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Updated: December 12, 2017 11:15 PM