Zinedine Zidane has been left in awe of his Real Madrid team for their persistence this season despite an often-lengthy injury list, though he insists it is no “miracle” to be in the Champions League semi-finals.
Madrid face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday having drawn 1-1 at home to the Blues last week, meaning Thomas Tuchel’s men have a slender advantage secured by their away goal.
The omens are not great for Madrid, as they have never beaten Chelsea in four previous meetings and not won on any of their past four trips to England.
On top of that, Tuchel has only suffered four home defeats out of a possible 18 in the Champions League and seen his teams average 2.7 goals per game in those matches.
But Madrid showed character to salvage a draw in the first leg with Karim Benzema levelling Christian Pulisic’s opener, and Zidane believes the fact they have got this far despite operating with a depleted squad for much of 2021 is testament to the team’s excellent mentality.
“You have to take your hat off to this team,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Every time there are difficulties, they respond. They are the best. We are where we want to be and it is deserved.
“The team has character, first of all, and when things get complicated, they are there.”
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 4, 2021
However, when it was put to Zidane that Madrid’s progress this far into the competition was akin to a “miracle”, the Frenchman did not want to get carried away.
“It’s not a miracle to be here, not at all, on the contrary,” he said. “We are here for our work and because we believe in what we do.
“We’re here because of our work, nothing else. In football, there are no miracles.”
Madrid have recovered several key players for the trip to London, with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy all able to travel.
While the loss of Raphael Varane to an abductor injury was a blow, the return of captain Ramos – out since March – will add leadership and experience to the side.
“I’m not going to risk anything,” Zidane said of Ramos’ inclusion. “If he’s with us, he’s ready to play.
“He’s with us, that means it’s okay. It’s the most important thing, to have our leader.”
Eden Hazard appeared against his former club off the bench last week and Zidane is backing the Belgian to have an impact at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s a very good moment for him and I think he comes prepared,” Zidane added. “We are going to need him and he’ll help, for sure.”
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