Zidane urges fans to back Real Madrid’s push to advance in Champions League
Zinedine Zidane hopes Real Madrid supporters turn their jeers into cheers as the Spanish giants go in search of Champions League qualification against Paris St Germain.
Madrid know a victory in Tuesday’s mouthwatering clash will guarantee they join Group A leaders PSG in the last 16 with a game to spare, but it remains to be seen what the mood in the Bernabeu stands will be like.
Gareth Bale came off the bench to whistles and jeers from fans during Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Real Sociedad following a fresh club versus country row during the international break.
The 30-year-old was criticised after being pictured celebrating Wales’ Euro 2020 qualification victory over Hungary last week with a flag that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order”.
However, Bale was not the only Madrid player to feel the ire of fans on Saturday, with captain Sergio Ramos also being booed after his early mistake led to Sociedad taking the lead.
Zidane was quick to highlight the importance of the supporters when asked about those incidents during his pre-match press conference on Monday, and he hopes his players receive their full backing against in-form PSG.
He said: “It’s not that I feel it’s bad or good, our fans are important to every player. They’re a big plus and if they’re with us the players notice it on the pitch.
“The fans were with the team after a while (against Sociedad) and it’s what we want from minute one to 90.”
Zidane refused to confirm whether Bale, who had missed six club matches through injury before returning to action at the weekend, would start in Europe but said he was “ready to play”.
The Frenchman added: “It’s an important day for all, for Gareth, for the fans and for us.”
Madrid will be without James Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio for the visit of the French champions, who thumped Zidane’s men 3-0 at home in September.
That was one of 16 wins in 19 competitive matches this season for Thomas Tuchel’s runaway Ligue 1 leaders and Zidane knows Madrid will be put to the test once again.
He said: “We need to have a great game. They are having a magnificent season and this game is going to be more demanding than the others. But we enjoy that.
“We’ve improved since then (Paris defeat) but it’s not about revenge.”
PSG only need a point in the Spanish capital to ensure they finish top of Group A and have been recently boosted by the return to fitness of Neymar.
The world’s most expensive player played 65 minutes of Friday’s 2-0 win over Lille before being replaced by Kylian Mbappe, emphasising the embarrassment of attacking riches Tuchel has at his disposal.
Edinson Cavani was also a second-half substitute in that match, coming on for Mauro Icardi, and Tuchel must now decide which combination to utilise at the Bernabeu.
Whatever starting XI is chosen, midfielder Idrissa Gueye hopes it will be enough to guarantee first place in the group.
He said on his club’s website: “We’ve already qualified, so now we have to do all we can to keep top spot in the group, which is important for the club.
“We’re going to do everything to prepare well for the game and above all keep top spot, which could be important for the rest of the competition.”
PSG are without seven players, including Ander Herrera, Layvin Kurzawa and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.