Real won’t relax in battle for top spot, says Zidane

News Hour:

Real Madrid will not conserve energy against Borussia Dortmund despite having already qualified for the Champions League last 16 and are intent on taking top spot in Group F, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday.

Both teams have reached the knockout stage of Europe’s elite competition, although Zidane’s side, who trail leaders Dortmund by two points, need to beat the Germans to avoid finishing second in their group for the first time in four years.

“We’re playing a final, a game that determines who wins the group and we’re at home so obviously we want to put on a big performance. We’re not going to try and relax or be cautious, we’re playing to win,” Zidane told a news conference.

Finishing second could work in Real’s favour as they would be guaranteed to avoid fellow Spaniards Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, winners of Groups C and D, and could be handed a favourable draw against a team like Leicester City, Monaco or Benfica.

“We’re not going to do any calculations, our objective is to always win the group,” Zidane said.

A club record 34 games unbeaten in all competitions is also at stake for the Frenchman, who is boosted by the return of Toni Kroos from a foot injury and Alvaro Morata from a hamstring problem, making Gareth Bale his only major absentee.

Sergio Ramos’s 90th-minute equaliser against Barcelona on Saturday preserved Zidane’s unbeaten run and as he approached his 50th game in charge of the club, the former Real midfielder was asked if he had ridden his luck over the last nine months.

“I’m lucky, because I do what I love everyday and I’m at a club I love. Not everyone can achieve this – to play and then coach here. I think the hard work and passion for what I’ve got helps,” he said.

Real captain Ramos highlighted the effect Zidane has had on the team since taking over from Rafael Benitez.

“Zizou has that kind of magic that dazzles you,” Ramos said.

“He’s taken the group in the right direction and we’re going places. There’s a lot of harmony, he’s more sympathetic than our last coach and everyone can see what he has achieved.”

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