Zinedine Zidane has welcomed Raphael Varane’s return to full fitness ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final tie against city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Madrid are at home for Tuesday’s first leg, with Zidane boosted by the availability of defender Varane, who has only played once – against Deportivo La Coruna – since coming back from the hamstring injury he aggravated against Alaves last month.
The 24-year-old has not completed 90 minutes since a home win over Espanyol in mid-February, but has now added to the head coach’s options at centre-back along with Sergio Ramos and Nacho.
“Varane is fit – he has been training, he has recovered and he is doing well,” Zidane said at his pre-match media conference. “Pepe isn’t quite there yet, but we have three centre-backs all fit.
“I’m happy to have those three players for this finale to the season because there have been quite a few games, especially recently, when I have only had two fit centre-backs available – Nacho and Sergio Ramos.
“So to have one more now is great news.”
Zidane gave little away about his team selection for the match, side-stepping questions on whether the likes of Isco or James Rodriguez would replace the injured Gareth Bale.
“There are two ways to announce the team – you can tell the team as a group and then of course you can also have a chat one-on-one with the players, especially those who are starting,” he said after being asked whether he would speak to Isco.
“You tell them what you expect from them and the role they have to play.”
Asked about the form of James, he added: “Yes, James has played well and he is another player who gives us options. He might play, but I’m not going to reveal my starting XI.”
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) April 30, 2017
Zidane continued: “It is a semi-final and a 50-50 game. We have to prove we are good enough. We will do everything in our power to win Tuesday night’s game and we can’t think about the return leg yet.
“To make it through to the semi-finals means you have done a very good job. We hope to go another step further.
“Atletico Madrid in the last four or five years have been very good, they get better every year and they are a tough test. We find them tough rivals.
“Atletico never give in, they keep fighting and they know what their strengths are. They are very good at getting the best out of their side. But let’s see, we have got plenty of strengths too and we want to focus on our gameplan.
“We know how they play, their strengths and weaknesses – and they know ours. We cannot invent anything new. We are looking forward to the tie, that is for sure and, whatever we do, we have to play to our full potential.”
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