Zidane downplays Madrid struggles
MADRID, Spain (AP):
As far as Zinedine Zidane is concerned, things are not as bad as they look for Real Madrid.
Zidane downplayed Madrid's recent setbacks, blaming critics for exaggerating the team's struggles and wanting to create turmoil at the club.
"I'm tired of hearing that Madrid is struggling," Zidane said on Friday. "It's easy to say that everything is wrong, but it's not all bad here. It's pretty to talk negatively about Real Madrid, it sells more."
Madrid has been under increased pressure since it lost to Barcelona 3-0 at home in its last game of 2017. It started the year by defeating second-division club Numancia 3-0 in the Copa del Rey, but then was held by Celta Vigo to 2-2 in the Spanish league and could not manage more than another 2-2 against Numancia in the return leg of the Copa at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
"We can't listen to what is being said," Zidane said. "Everything that is said about Real Madrid is negative, but in reality things are not like that. I don't see it like that. The situation is what it is, and we have to try to make the most out of it. We are still alive in all competitions and we have to keep moving forward. We are not doing as bad as people say."
Madrid is in the knockout stages of the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, but it already trails Barcelona by 16 points with a game in hand near the halfway point of the Spanish league. It has never been able to overcome this big of a gap and win La Liga.
Madrid will face Leganes in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey next week, and next month it will take on Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition it has won the last two seasons.
Its next league game is on Saturday against sixth-place Villarreal.
"We have to show on the field that we are improving," Zidane said. "We will do that by winning matches. That's what's important, and recently it has been difficult to win matches."
Zidane, who this week confirmed he has renewed his contract with Madrid until 2020, said he was not worried about the team being jeered by fans at the Bernabeu, but made a plea for their support.
"What I ask is that they support the team, like they have always done," Zidane said. "I'd tell them not to listen too much to what is being said. In difficult moments we need the fans to be on our side."