No LaLiga euphoria at Madrid as Zidane preaches focus

By Sports Desk July 04, 2020

Zinedine Zidane insists Real Madrid are not prematurely celebrating despite taking significant steps towards LaLiga glory in recent weeks.

Barcelona have drawn three of their past four matches, with Madrid winning all of their games across the same period to open up a four-point advantage at the summit.

The Clasico rivals each have 15 points to play for, meaning Barca require a huge swing in the remaining matches, with their derby at home to Espanyol and Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao next on the agenda.

Los Blancos last won the title in 2016-17, during Zidane's previous spell in charge, and the head coach is taking nothing for granted.

"The players know that it is a complicated, difficult, long competition, and that those who did it before show that they want to go for everything," he said.

"There is no euphoria here because we have not won anything.

"There is work and commitment to do it well and try to win matches."

Sergio Ramos was Madrid's match-winner against Getafe last time out and he is set to be joined at centre-back by Eder Militao at San Mames.

Raphael Varane was struck in the face by the ball during Thursday's match and was substituted, with the France international suffering from neck pain and unable to recover in time for a place in this weekend's squad.

"He has just arrived, he is working to reach the level of Rafa and Sergio," Zidane said of the 22-year-old former Porto defender Militao.

"Tomorrow he will have to play and I am happy for Mili because he is a player for the present and the future."

Seven of Militao's 12 LaLiga appearances so far this season have been starts, while his fellow Brazilian Rodrygo has only made Zidane's first XI once since the restart and last scored in October.

Nevertheless, the teenage forward produced a lively cameo last time out, asking questions of Getafe before Ramos' 79th-minute penalty.

"He is a player who is changing little by little, working hard," Zidane added.

"He is a charming boy, he is well, and in the end we will take advantage of his qualities."

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    Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City must win the Champions League to be considered one of the competition's great clubs.

    The City manager also vowed it should not be considered "a disaster" if his team miss out on European success during his tenure, yet he can now sniff glory after the last-16 victory over mighty Real Madrid.

    With LaLiga's champions ousted, and Serie A winners Juventus also eliminated, every team through to the quarter-finals will sense a genuine opportunity.

    Lyon, the team that edged past Juve on away goals, are next in City's crosshairs, with their meeting scheduled for next Saturday in Lisbon.

    Guardiola says he "would love" to bring Champions League glory to City, having missed out with Bayern Munich after achieving 2009 and 2011 successes while in charge at Barcelona.

    He recognises that although City are becoming part of the competition's establishment, there is still a next step they have to take.

    "You have to lift it, this title, to be 'okay, we've got it'," Guardiola said.

    "We beat Real Madrid, of course for us it's so important. We know the credit, the value, the prestige that Real has.

    "They are a massive club. To compete with them, beat them twice, for this season and for the future it will be so good."

    Guardiola agreed when it was suggested the rest of the tournament could feel like a World Cup, saying it would feel "quite similar".

    The last eight teams standing will head to Lisbon for one-off games in each remaining round rather than two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals.

    "Now every game is a final. You are in, or you are out. We will see a final against Lyon," he said.

    But Guardiola's overriding message, as he spoke shortly after his side saw off Madrid, was that Champions League success can rest on fine margins, pointing to the errors from the usually unflappable Raphael Varane that helped City fend off Zinedine Zidane's side.

    Whether City experience Champions League success during his reign or not, Guardiola does not see it defining his stay in Manchester.

    "I live in Manchester, and an incredible club will be my memories. This is my happiness. Of course, we are going to try. But this competition is so difficult," he said

    "But I don't want to live right now being here [saying] if we don't win the Champions League it will be a disaster.

    "I know what I live is great. I've met incredible people. This is my life. And is it going to change my relations because I lift a title? Honestly, no.

    "In Munich, we won a lot of titles but we didn't win the Champions League. Am I going to tell you I was unhappy in Munich? No. That I don't have friends in Munich? I have many.

    "We're going to put in everything. But sometimes the opponents are better. Or you get wrong decisions of the strikers, or mistakes by the defenders. It's part of the life, it's part of the process, part of football. It's little details, margins, it happens."

  • New Juve boss Pirlo is destined for greatness – Paratici New Juve boss Pirlo is destined for greatness – Paratici

    Juventus are confident Andrea Pirlo is "destined for greatness" and a natural fit for the club, says chief football officer Fabio Paratici.

    Juve dismissed Maurizio Sarri on Saturday in the wake of their Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon on Friday.

    Sarri spent just one season at the club, winning the Serie A title but failing in the Coppa Italia and Champions League and his replacement was surprisingly announced just hours later.

    Pirlo, who rejoined Juve as the Under-23s coach last week, has signed a two-year deal.

    However, despite the job being Pirlo's first in senior coaching, Paratici – whose future is also reportedly in doubt – has full faith in the former midfielder.

    "The decision for Pirlo was very natural, in the Juventus style, because he is someone who played with us, has always been in contact with everyone here and it felt natural," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

    "We also believe he is destined for greatness. He was as a player and we think with confidence he can do the same as a coach."

    Paratici reiterated Juve's decision to relieve Sarri of his duties was based on the entire 2019-20 campaign, not just the Champions League exit.

    "We had already said, one game does not decide the future of a coach. Our evaluations were based on the whole season and not just a single match," Paratici added.

    "A season is long, there are many moments and situations that then add up. There wasn't any spark.

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  • Juventus appoint Pirlo: Returning heroes - the hits and misses Juventus appoint Pirlo: Returning heroes - the hits and misses

    Juventus' elimination from the Champions League spelled the end for Maurizio Sarri and the start of a new era under Andrea Pirlo.

    Despite leading the Bianconeri to a ninth straight Scudetto in 2019-20, Sarri was fired after Juve crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage to Lyon on Friday.

    Pirlo was at the heart of Juve's brilliant midfield during the start of their Serie A dominance, winning four Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana twice during a four-year stint that ended when he moved to New York City in 2015.

    A week after returning to Juve as their Under-23 boss, Pirlo was handed the reins of the first team ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

    He is not the first club legend to go back and manage a team they played for, though, and we have taken a look at the biggest successes and failures.

    HITS

    Pep Guardiola

    After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

    Zinedine Zidane

    World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint.

    Antonio Conte

    In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Pirlo will have to get the better of his former coach Conte, now at Inter, if he is to maintain the Bianconeri's run of titles.

    Roberto Di Matteo

    Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

    MISSES

    Alan Shearer

    Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

    Filippo Inzaghi

    Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

    Thierry Henry

    Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

    Juan Jose Lopez

    One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

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