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Ronaldo, Benzema doubtful for second leg against City

Zinedine Zidane refused to offer any guarantees Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema will be fit for the second leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final against Manchester City.

On the eve of the match, Zidane expressed confidence star forwards Ronaldo and Benzema would recover from respective thigh and knee complaints to play a full part at Etihad Stadium.

But Ronaldo felt pain during Madrid’s final training session, while an ineffective Benzema was replaced at half-time after suffering discomfort in a tense 0-0 draw.

Madrid struggled to breakdown a stubborn City defence before belatedly drawing fine saves from England goalkeeper Joe Hart as Casemiro and Pepe sent late set-pieces goalwards.

“I said 100 per cent [they would play] but I did say there was still the training session to go,” Zidane told a post-match news conference. 

“Cristiano felt something after that last training session, that’s all there is to it.

“That’s why he didn’t play because we didn’t want to make things worse.

“Karim was a little bit different but, little by little, as the game progressed he didn’t feel good.

“We didn’t want to take the risk. Both players are important to us. 

“Hopefully they can be in the second leg but we have to take it day by day for them.

“We’re going to try and get them fit for [the second leg], that’s our plan but I can’t assure you of anything right now. We obviously want them back.”

Zidane was satisfied overall with his side’s efforts in a match that made good on his pre-game prediction of a “brutal” encounter, as robust defensive performances put both team’s unquestioned creative capabilities on the backburner.

“I’m happy, happy with the game. It’s not been easy,” he said. “We’ve had a tough game but we defended really well – all the game but particularly in the second half.

“We had a couple of chances to score the goal. In the sense of the chances we created in the second half I’m perhaps a little bit disappointed.

“It was a hardworking game and I’m happy with the overall result.”

Despite Madrid playing with growing authority before Kevin De Bruyne tested visiting goalkeeper 
Keylor Navas with a stoppage-time free-kick, Zidane does not believe his team garner any particular advantage from holding City on their own turf.

“We could have scored a goal but even with a goal we wouldn’t be in the final,” he added, before suggesting Madrid’s cumulative Champions League home score of 18-0 this season should count for little.

“Before this game it was 50-50 and I think it’s the same now.

“We’re at home, we know what we’re capable of at home. But it’s 50-50 and right until the death it will be the same.”

Tue 26 Apr, 2016
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