Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has praised Liverpool as “a complete team” ahead of their Champions League quarterfinal first leg but said he believes critics were too hasty to write off Madrid’s chances of winning silverware this year.
Both teams have struggled for consistency at times this season, but Real Madrid are now just three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga, while Liverpool are two points off the Premier League top four.
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“They’re a complete team,” Zidane said at a news conference on Monday. “Some people will mention the three forwards, and it’s true that they’re really good, but I think they’re a strong, solid unit. I’d rather focus on the team. After that, yes, the three forwards are really efficient. We’ll have to be alert.”
Zidane’s job looked to be under threat earlier in the campaign, with Madrid on the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League group stage for the first time.
The team lost their opening European fixture 3-2 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, then drew 2-2 with Borussia Monchengladbach, before back-to-back wins over Inter Milan were followed by another defeat 2-0 to Shakhtar.
There was more pressure on Zidane in January, when Madrid were knocked out of the Spanish Supercopa by Athletic Bilbao and the Copa del Rey by third-tier Alcoyano, and lost at home to Levante in La Liga.
“Yes, I think so,” Zidane said, when asked if his team had been written off prematurely. “I believe in my team and I have confidence in them, I know what they can do. But we can’t change that… The good thing with this team, this club’s history, is that we never give up on things. Where there’s life, there’s hope, and we’re alive in two competitions.”
Real Madrid and Liverpool last met in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev, when a Gareth Bale brace gave Madrid a 3-1 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Since then, Liverpool have gone on to win the competition in Madrid in 2019 and ended a 30-year wait for the Premier League title a year later.
“Since the final we played, they’ve won the Champions League, and we lost Cristiano [Ronaldo],” defender Nacho Fernandez said. “But I don’t think there’s much difference between us. We’re competitive, we’ve won a lot of trophies, we’re in great form and we have a great squad.”
Zidane wouldn’t confirm if Eden Hazard would be available for Tuesday’s match at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium, after the forward took part in training on Monday.