Toronto Star

Reality check for Real Madrid

Zidane gives team talking-to as it tries to close the gap on first-place Barcelona


MADRID— Zinedine Zidane is hoping his words will help put Real Madrid back on track.

Zidane had a longer than usual talk with his players before training on Tuesday, saying it’s his responsibi­lity to keep them motivated despite the team’s struggles in the Spanish league.

“Sometimes a talk is necessary,” Zidane said. “I’m not giving a speech just to give a speech.

“I’m not happy with the situation,” he said. “We can improve in all areas. All I can do is keep working hard and keep giving my best. And it’s the same regarding my players. I have to try to get each one of them to give a little bit more.”

Madrid is coming off a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, a result that left the defending champions 16 points behind Spanish league leader Barcelona near the competitio­n’s halfway point. Madrid has a game in hand, but it has never been able to overcome this big of a gap and win the title.

The weekend setback, coming in its first league game since the demoralizi­ng 3-0 home loss against Barcelona last year, reignited talks of a crisis at the Spanish giant.

“You can analyze it any way you want it, saying it is a crisis or whatever, but we are here to find solutions,” Zidane said. “The talk was longer than usual, but that’s it.”

Zidane made his comments a day before Madrid hosts second-division club Numancia to defend a 3-0 firstleg win in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.

Madrid easily made it to the round of 16 of the Champions League, where it will face Paris Saint-Germain, beginning with a home game on Feb. 14.

Zidane could not count on all of his players in training on Tuesday. Midfielder Luka Modric jad a court appearance in a tax fraud case, while Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were nursing injuries.

 ??  ?? Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid trail Barcelona by 16 points at the La Liga season’s halfway point.
Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid trail Barcelona by 16 points at the La Liga season’s halfway point.

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