Zidane sees ‘no easy wins’ for Real Madrid in Uefa Champions League

Club legend not convinced of European success by previous domination of Champions League opponents Schalke

French football star Zinedine Zidane during a press conference on December 5, 2013, the eve of the Brazil 2014 FIFA Football World Cup final draw, in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil. Vanderlei Almeida / AFP
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Zinedine Zidane has warned his club Real Madrid to take nothing for granted when they face Germany’s Schalke in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.

Holders Real could be forgiven for expecting little opposition in Gelsenkirchen for the first leg on February 18, with the return in Madrid on March 10.

Carlo Ancelotti's Real inflicted a record 6-1 defeat on Schalke at the same stage of the competition last season.

Madrid ran riot at the Veltins Arena as Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo each scored two goals as Schalke crumbled before also losing 3-1 away for a 9-2 aggregate defeat.

But Zidane, who coaches Real’s reserves, said the first team should take nothing for granted this time in Gelsenkirchen.

“I would like to say that Schalke has no chance and Real will safely reach the quarter-finals,” the former Real midfielder told German daily Die Welt.

“But in the knockout phase, anything can happen. In two games, you have double the chance of an outsider playing above themselves. You must always be cautious – especially against a German team.”

Real have won three of their 27 away matches in Germany. Two came last season when they smashed Schalke, then routed Bayern Munich in the semi-finals on the way to the title.

Schalke coach Roberto di Matteo won the 2012 Champions League title with Chelsea and has helped his side climb to third in the Bundesliga since taking charge in October.

Despite preaching caution, Zidane believes Real will progress to face Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on June 6.

“[Bayern-Real] would be the logical final, but logic has no place in football,” Zidane said. “Past a certain level, there are no small teams anymore, especially not in the Champions League. There are no easy victories. Those days are long gone.”

Real beat Bayern 4-0 in the second leg of last season’s semi-finals to take the tie 5-0 on aggregate, but Zidane said Guardiola has given the Bavarian giants “that little extra”.

“He has put them among the best in the world and given them an extra little kick,” Zidane said of after Guardiola’s first 18 months in Munich.

“He brings his own unique touch to Munich’s game, and that makes the difference.”


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