They may lead Barcelona by four points, but there is no complacency at Real Madrid right now. That was the message that Zinedine Zidane was keen to convey at his most recent press conference, ahead of Sunday’s away game at Athletic Club.
The coach started by stating: “San Mamés has been tough for all who play there. We’re prepared for it, though. It’s all about the details. I’m enjoying being the coach of these players. The players know that the league is a difficult and long competition. They’ve shown that they really want this. There’s no sense of euphoria here yet. There’s just hard work and commitment.”
The match will take place at 14:00 local time, the first match that Real Madrid will have played at that timeslot since the restart. After several 22:00 matches, Zidane was asked how he has prepared the team for this shake-up in the matchday routine. On that, the coach responded: “I don’t know how it’ll be. We had the training sessions yesterday and today at approximately the time when we’ll play. But, I don’t think it changes too much.”
With Raphaël Varane not ready to return for this weekend’s game, Zidane confirmed that Éder Militão will start the match in Bilbao and he was asked to evaluate the Brazilian centre-back’s season so far. On Militão, the coach said: “He just arrived this year. He is working to reach Ramos and Varane’s level. He is working well and he’ll have to play tomorrow. I’m very happy with how it’s going for him because he is a player both for the present and the future.”
Another player who is set to miss this weekend’s match is Eden Hazard and Zidane was asked about the Belgian’s constant injury struggles. He said: “I hope we’ll see him back before the end of the season. It’s true that he has had pain in the past few days and we don’t want to risk anything. He suffered a strong knock against Espanyol and that’s preventing him from being with us just now. We have competent doctors here to look at this situation. We have many people here to help him. We don’t want a player to be injured, whether it’s Hazard or any other player. He wants to help the team and is unhappy that he can’t do so.”