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Zidane: “No matter what happens in the derby, Real Madrid will still be in the title race”

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The coach previewed the match against Atlético Madrid.

Real Madrid v Real Sociedad - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid will visit the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday for a huge derby against league leaders Atlético Madrid. In his pre-match press conference, Zinedine Zidane spoke about the importance of this game, saying: “We know it’s a special match. Madrid derbies always are. Derbies are always a nice match for players, which I know because I was a player. Our fans know this too and we are prepared for this match, after having a very good week of training. It’s another three points in play. It’s a final, but just like every match is a final. We always need to win whenever we play. No matter what happens tomorrow, we’ll be alive in the title race.”

Real Madrid’s recent record against Atlético Madrid has been good, but Zidane isn’t thinking about previous results. He explained: “I don’t think there’s a favourite. What has happened in past matches doesn’t affect the next derby. I don’t know what will happen in the match, but we know we have to play a good match against a strong opponent who are above us in the table. We want to start the match well and have a good match over 90 minutes.”

The big question mark ahead of the match is over Karim Benzema and Zidane was asked if the centre-forward will start, which he wouldn’t confirm. The coach said: “We don’t like to take risks if a player is still doubtful because that can make an injury worse. The players who play need to be at 100 percent. Karim will be with us [in the squad]. You’ll see tomorrow [if he starts]. We all know what Karim is, not only in terms of goals. He is an important player for us. All players are important, but since he is at the tip of attack he is very important. He is a joy for those who like football.”

The coach also provided an injury update on Eden Hazard, revealing: “There hasn’t been a relapse. We just want him to be 100 percent when he returns. We’re working with him little by little. Maybe next week he can be with us.”

Another specific player who was brought up was Thibaut Courtois, who’ll go up against Jan Oblak on Sunday. Zidane was asked who he thinks is the best goalkeeper in the world and was typically vague with his reply. He said: “There are many good goalkeepers and everyone can decide who is the best in their view. But, we have Thibaut and he is one of the best. He has grown a lot with us and he is an important player for us. He has shown that recently and we’re happy that we have Thibaut in the team.”

Finally, Zidane spoke about the team’s overall attacking play and the need to finish off more of their chances. He said: “We want to score more goals, but the important thing is to create chances. Recently, we’ve created a lot. Every player can improve of course. That’s what they’re doing, whether it’s Marcos [Asensio], Vinícius or Rodrygo. They all want to improve and improve their stats. I remember that I used to not score so much and it was an objective of mine when I was a player, to score more goals.”