Real Madrid returns to LaLiga action on Sunday night, when they welcome SD Eibar at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium (19:30 CET), and Zinedine Zidane was back on press conference duty, in a rather unusual one. It was the first media briefing since the beginning of March and was conducted online.
The coach expressed his condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, was asked about what he’s expecting in the forthcoming games played behind closed doors, playing at the Di Stéfano stadium, the return of the injured players and more.
Here, you can read a full transcript of the manager’s press conference:
“I want to express my affection towards all those who have lost loved ones in these very hard times. I also want to express my thanks to all of the health professionals and those who have worked to save people’s lives, and, of course, to all those members of the Real Madrid family who are no longer with us. These are tough and strange times, but it was important to talk about this first.”
PREPARATIONS TO RETURN:
“We know that we’ve been through some tough times. Many people have had a worse time of things than us and we’re lucky enough to be able to start again. The players are happy and grateful to be returning to work. We’ve done some really good fitness work, there’s no doubt about that, and are ready for the competition to start up again, which is the most important thing.
“We’re ready. We’ve had virtually a month to prepare to get back to work. That’s been enough time to regain our fitness. I’m really positive about getting back to playing football again. We might struggle to finish a game because what really counts is being out there and competing. We’ve got a good squad with strength in depth and the important thing is to be ready and happy to be out on the pitch again.”
PLAYING AT THE ALFREDO DI STÉFANO STADIUM:
“It’s our stadium. We’re used to playing at the Bernabéu but we’ll adapt to the circumstances. We’re delighted. We’ve trained there, the dimensions are the same and we’re ready to play at the Di Stéfano.”
NAMING HIS STARTING XI:
“This is Real Madrid and we’ve got the best players. I know that I’ll have some selection headaches, as I always do. It’s my job, the coach’s job is to choose from the 25 players. We’ve got three or four players who are out injured. Everyone who’s available is in good shape and I’ll make my decisions. The good thing is that all of them will be on the bench and I like the fact that they’ll all be available. They’ve trained really well this week and I’ve got the chance to choose from amongst the 23 players who’ll be on the bench.”
HAZARD & ASENSIO:
“The good notice is that they’ve had time to prepare, just like the other players. Marco has had a bit of a long-term injury but he’s now training as normal. It’s the same with Eden. They’re available and will be with us and that’s good news.”
FIVE SUBSTITUTIONS RULE:
“I don’t think that it’s detrimental or benefits anyone. I’m not thinking about that. It’s a different rule and we’ll adapt to whatever we face. We’re going to have the chance to be able to call on 23 players and we’ll adapt to that. We’re experiencing such strange times that we’re just happy to be back and playing. The players come first because they’re the ones who’ll go out and play and we’re ready for everything. It’ll depend on how the game plays out. In one game you might make all five substitutions and in other make two. It’s good to have the option of five substitutions and we’ll see what shape we finish each game in.”
PLAYING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS:
“I don’t like playing behind closed doors. But we’ll adapt to the situation we’ve got. There’s a government in place and people working on it and we accept that. That won’t take away any of our excitement to get back playing. I’m sure that we’ll miss our fans but we’ll be giving our all out there regardless of it being behind closed doors. In the future, we’ll have to see whether those in charge change things. I was a player and my feeling is that we like to play with fans in the stadiums.”
200 GAMES IN CHARGE OF REAL MADRID:
“It’s the oddest game of them all. Behind closed doors and at the Di Stéfano. But as we know what’s going on and are ready, when the game gets underway that’ll be that. We’ll be focused on putting in a good performance and try to win the game. I’m not thinking about overtaking anyone. The important thing is what I do each day and the great fortune I have to be at this club and I take full advantage of what I do because it’s what I enjoying doing. I enjoy being with the players because it’s a blessing. I’m always grateful to Real Madrid for giving me this opportunity. I love Spain and the life I lead here. I make the most of every moment at this club.”
“We’re going to play the LaLiga games and complete the season. It’s nearly a month and a half of the competition. We’ve got 11 games to go, they’re 11 cup finals and then the Champions League will be back. It won’t change anything or work against us or help us. It won’t change things. It’s an odd situation but we’re going to compete in LaLiga and then the Champions League.”
PLAYING AFTER BARCELONA:
“That’s just the fixture calendar. We could say the same about the rest time. We’re happy to be back playing and adapt to the situation. We’re used to playing every three days. There are no excuses and we’re going to prepare for the remaining games properly. We’re going to go all out in the remaining month of the competition.”
HAZARD & JOVIC:
“Eden is doing really well, he’s happy to be back with us and to be back with the team. As for [Luka] Jović, the bad news is that he injured himself at home, it was a bad one because he’ll be out of action for a while, I don’t know how long. Let’s see if he’s able to return before the end of the season.”
“The situation is that we’re two points off the top. We’ve got 11 cup finals ahead of us and we’ll be trying to give our all to win LaLiga.”
COMPARISON WITH A WORLD CUP OR EURO:
“I like that comparison. My players know what it’s like to play in cup finals, in final stages and how important preparation is and we’ve prepared really well. Tomorrow we’ve got our first game and what we want to do is give our all out on the pitch. I believe in the work we’ve done with the players and now it’s time to show that out on the pitch in every game.”
LALIGA OR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE?
“Sometimes I express myself a bit poorly because of my Spanish. For me, every game we play is important and that goes for the friendlies too. This shirt is everything I know. LaLiga is a very long competition. I like it. If you’re performing well in LaLiga all the time, you’ll also do well in the Champions League. It’s the most difficult, longest and toughest competition. Spanish football is tough, you come up against tough teams and I love it. When you pull this shirt on, every game is important.”
“I did a lot of things, I watched a lot of football at home because that’s what I love to do. I also spent a lot of time with the family. We all had a bit of a bad time of things. There are many people who have lost loved ones. We’ve all been affected. The good thing is that everything is returning to normality. I haven’t cooked anything because I’m a nightmare in the kitchen. I’m better off watching football.”
WHAT DID YOU MISS THE MOST DURING LOCKDOWN?
“My freedom. Nobody likes it when you have to stay at home, but that’s what we had to do, it was a really tough pandemic, but you’ve got to be positive and things will get back to normal, think about the future and hope that everything goes along the right track.”