Zinedine Zidane does not feel his close relationship with Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti will have too great a bearing upon Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final clash with the Bundesliga giants.
Zidane served as Ancelotti’s assistant when Madrid collected a 10th European title in 2014 and stepped up to
be at the helm himself when number 11 arrived last year.
Speaking before the match at the Allianz Arena, Ancelotti said the experience of working alongside the France great served to inform his coaching style – stating that he now places more emphasis on player morale than tactical intricacy.
Such learning was a two-way street but Zidane, who grinned his way through the most probing moments of his own briefing in Bavaria, believes both men will take a backseat once the first whistle goes.
“I know him very well and he knows me very well but that doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
“It’s not a disadvantage or an advantage. There’s a game tomorrow and I think that it’s two very good teams coming up against each other and that’s it. We’re not playing against Carlo.
“I learnt many, many things [from Ancelotti]. But, as you know, I’m not going to tell you what I learnt with him. But it was many things.”
Ancelotti mischievously said his Madrid 2014 vintage had the edge over Zidane’s current collective. Naturally, his friend disagreed.
“I think that this current Real Madrid is better but we have to show it out on the pitch,” he smiled.
“As you know, Real Madrid have always had very good teams. There is not too much difference between one team or another.
“Everyone has their opinions on which team is better but I think I have a better squad.”
One constant is the forward line-up of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, whose alliance was in its infancy during Ancelotti’s first season in the Spanish capital.
Their performances to sink Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final, where both Bale and Ronaldo were on target in extra time, firmly established them in the affections of Madridistas.
This season has been a more testing experience, with Bale and Benzema struggling for fitness and form respectively, while Ronaldo has fallen shy of his own rarefied levels despite collecting a fourth Ballon d’Or.
Nevertheless, Zidane expects all three to rise to the big occasion.
“They are experienced players, very good players and they are players who are criticised,” he said.
“The better you are the more criticised you are but they know it and are accustomed to it.
“I’ve got three players there with a lot of character and they’re not afraid of these kind of situations. In fact, the opposite, these are the games that they love.
“We know they’re important but we have a unit, a very strong team and a balanced team. Our idea is always the same. We are going out to win as always.”
Zidane added: “I’m not talking about the game three years ago. What happened, happened. It was spectacular but this is another game against another opponent, perhaps a better, stronger opponent.”
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