Real Madrid earned an excellent 3-0 victory over Valencia on Thursday night and a delighted Zinedine Zidane was full of praise for his players in his post-match press conference. It was a particularly special night for Marco Asensio as he returned from the ACL injury he suffered on July 24th of last year and as he scored with his first touch.
Speaking about Asensio’s magical comeback, Zidane said: “This means a lot for him. We’re happy to see him back on the pitch. After so many months out, to come back and score a great goal in his first involvement makes me really happy. He was already happy just to get out on to the pitch and then he was able to score straight away, which shows he is already involved.”
Zidane was also pleased with Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, who both turned in good performances up front. He told the journalists in the virtual press conference: “This was a really good game from Hazard. Physically, he was good and played 80 minutes. Sometimes you might think he’s starting to look tired, but then he picks up the ball and sprints away. Then the third goal was a truly great goal, with Benzema volleying it without the ball falling. I’m happy for him.”
For the coach, it was important that the team turned in a complete performance after a poor second half against Eibar. Discussing the overall flow of the match, Zidane said: “Valencia played really well in the first half with a lot of rhythm. I think we were good in this one from the first to the last minute. We were also good in the second half. We can be very happy with what we did today in all of the game. I’m happy for the players because they’re the ones who go out there and play and fight. Now we need to rest up well because we don’t have much time before the next big game on Sunday.”
In this game, just two substitutions were used. But, Zidane isn’t going to use all five of his available changes unless he really feels he needs to. Explaining this, he said: “Each match has its own story. We could have made more substitutions, but today we made two and the other day we made five. In the end, it worked out well for us. I’m sure there will be other matches where we need to make more substitutions. I’m not going to use all five substitutions just for the sake of it.”
Finally, Zidane was asked about the fact that he started with four midfielders, after adopting a similar tactic of flooding the midfield when facing Valencia in the Spanish Supercup in January. However, he said this is not a reaction to any particular tactical quirk of Valencia. The coach stated: “It’s true that we also played similarly vs Valencia, but it’s not the same. I liked the match from Luka Modrić, who played in a slightly different position in between the lines. I think he interpreted the match really well. The first goal comes from this, with Modrić linking up well with Hazard and Benzema. But, [playing with so many midfielders] is not necessarily because of the way Valencia play. On Sunday, we’ll have a new type of match once again.”