Chelsea deserved it – Zidane returns Madrid's focus to LaLiga scrap

By Sports Desk May 05, 2021

A gripping LaLiga title race should be all Real Madrid need to pick themselves up from their Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, according to Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid head coach Zidane conceded his team were beaten by the better side after goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount gave Chelsea a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, sending them through 3-1 on aggregate to an all-English final against Manchester City at the end of this month.

Los Blancos looked a shadow of the side that won three consecutive European crowns under Zidane between 2016-2018, but the France great insisted he was proud of his players' endeavours on Wednesday.

Now they face up to a LaLiga battle, where they are level on points with Barcelona and two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining. Barca and Atleti face one another this weekend.

"We have spoken on this many times this season. It has been a year with many injuries, ups and downs, and that’s what we have dealt this year," Zidane told a post-match news conference midweek.

"Despite it all, we have done good things in this Champions League in order to reach this stage.

"I think we deserved it and we were only one step from the final, but we have to congratulate this team [Chelsea], who has been better tonight.

"It doesn't change anything. I am very pleased and very proud and now it is the time to rest and be focused on the last four games in LaLiga."

Captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy were passed fit to start for Madrid and struggled to find top gear, although Zidane insisted he had no regrets over the selections.

"If my players have played it's because they were ready for the 90 minutes," he said.

"Ramos and Mendy were ready to play, that's why I put them on. It was a semi-final and they were ready."

Another man recently back to fitness, Eden Hazard, lasted 89 minutes but had minimal impact against his former club.

After the match, images of Hazard congratulating his old Chelsea team-mates played very badly in Madrid, but Zidane urged patience with the €100million forward.

"Eden needs to play regularly and get his confidence back," he added. "And you get that slowly and playing games.

"So, we need to get back Eden and it will be possible playing games."

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    The 31-year-old spent two-and-a-half seasons at Atleti after leaving Tottenham in 2019, helping Diego Simeone's side clinch a LaLiga title last year.

    There were reports since early in 2021 that Trippier wished to return to England, and United were heavily linked.

    Trippier has now confirmed that United and Atleti held discussions before the 2021-22 season, after England's run to the final of Euro 2020, but the potential move broke down over the Spanish club's demand that his release clause, reported at around £50m (€60m), was met.

    "After the Euros, there was really strong interest," Trippier told Newcastle great Alan Shearer in an interview with The Athletic.

    "I've got to be careful what I say because I don't want to get into trouble, but yeah, there was interest. We had conversations, but Atletico Madrid just wanted my release clause and it was a lot of money for a 30-year-old, so I understand why Man United didn't do that.

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    Trippier hopes Simeone, who has established himself as one of world football's leading coaches during his decade-long stint at Atleti, follows him from LaLiga to the Premier League.

    "I'd love to see him working in England. I know he was learning English about a year ago, and his partner speaks English," Trippier said.

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    Simeone's pragmatic approach has sometimes come in for criticism, but there can be no doubting its success.

    "It's a bit unfair, because Simeone has been so successful. He's won eight trophies," Trippier added, before referring to a comment Jurgen Klopp made about Atleti not playing "proper football" after Liverpool's defeat to Los Colchoneros in the 2019-20 Champions League knockout stage.

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    ROUND-UP

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    - Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele is set to join Valencia on loan, reports Telefoot.

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    The Norway forward was also asked about his recent comments that Dortmund were forcing him to make a decision on his future as soon as possible.

    Haaland said in a post-match interview following last week's 5-1 win against Freiburg that the club "press me to make a decision now about my future", though Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke denied this.

    "I don't really want to say too much about it, but I felt it was time for me to say something," Haaland told Sky. "A lot of others were speaking – so that was it. Now, I don't want to say too much. I said what I said, and now we move on."

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