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Zidane: “The 7-3 pre-season defeat in New Jersey may have helped us, it sticks with you”

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The coach believes the pre-season derby defeat spurred the team on towards success in the actual season. 

Granada v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid are closing in on the LaLiga Santander title, even if Zinedine Zidane isn’t taking anything for granted yet. “We need to focus on the next match and nothing else,” he said during his most recent press conference. “There’s a lot of talk outside, but everyone here is only thinking about tomorrow’s game against Villarreal.”

One of the questions brought up during the press conference was about the 7-3 defeat in New Jersey last summer to Atlético Madrid. The coach was asked if that heavy loss may have been the catalyst for an improvement and he seemed to agree. He said: “A defeat like that sticks with you. I’m sure it helped us to improve day by day. I can’t even explain how I was after that game, so angry. Just like all the players were. At this club there is so much ambition. You even saw that after the return from lockdown, with the way you could see in training that the players wanted this.”

There was some specific praise for Luka Modric during the press conference, with the Croatia international back to his best. Zidane retired when he was Modric’s age, but the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner seems determined to continue for some time yet. As Zidane explained: “I retired aged 34, but he wants to continue. What the player wants is important. He’s doing very well and we’re enjoying his football.”

Finally, Zidane confirmed that Eden Hazard is feeling better physically than he was on Monday, when he didn’t even warm up against Granada. On the Belgian, the coach said: “The pain he felt a few days ago isn’t there anymore. He is completely fine. You’ll see tomorrow if he’ll play.”