Distractions

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 1, 2017 18:06

Distractions

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (October 31st 2017)

A Long Time

A week is a long time in football. Zinédine Zidane was hailed by FIFA the best manager in the world at their awards. “It’s possible,” Zidane said, before giving the standard response on whether ‘La Tercera’ was possible – a third Champions League in a row -. It would be difficult. There are other good teams, but at the weekend Zidane found himself in need of another distraction.

Mourinho 1

It is Real Madrid’s worst star to La Liga since the José Mourinho era, made by the weekend’s loss to thoroughly unfancied Girona – a defeat made worse by the resurgence of Valencia and bitter rivals Barçelona sitting proudly atop the league. But Zidane remains upbeat.

“Perhaps some people might think that after a defeat we are down in the dumps but that’s not the case”, he told reporters at Wembley Stadium yesterday. “We all know how football works, sometimes you are going to lose matches and it’s obviously frustrating. After a defeat people aren’t happy but in some ways I like this. I like that we have a big game coming up. I feel I work my best in these situations”.

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Appreciation

Real Madrid is the benchmark to test against, at least as far as Europe is concerned. “When you are playing against the best team in the world, if you are not brave, it is so difficult”, Pochettino said. “And yes, we are going to be brave. Our mentality is right, we are going to try to play without fear, and dominate the game. We must remember that, because if you have fear, it is difficult to show your real quality”.

He explains why. “When I praise Real Madrid”, he said, “it’s because I feel they’re the best team in the world. But at the same time, I have the belief that we can win. I have faith in my players, in the way we can play, and the way we can beat them”.

Pochettino had praised Zidane, both as a player and coach. The Argentine tactician sees no reason why Zidane could not succeed in English football. But Zidane says he is happy at Real Madrid. The respect is mutual.

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“He’s doing an exceptional job”, Zidane said of the former Espanyol and Southampton coach. “He’s doing well at a club that aspires to greater things. The results he has achieved speak for themselves. I don’t think that it’s any more difficult to play against a side that lines up with two or three central defenders”.

The Stage

Wembley is home for Spurs this season. It’s common knowledge that it didn’t work out last season, but so far Spurs have performed well in Europe. Expectations of battling it out with Borussia Dortmund for second place may underestimate expectations and ambitions now. But Real Madrid are smarting now.

“It’s a good stage on which to deliver a great performance against a strong side and that’s what we’ve got to look to forward to”, Zidane said. “The players are aware of where they’re playing. It’s a very special setting in which to play football. In addition to the stadium, which represents a great deal, there will be two very good teams on show, which is really positive for football fans everywhere. I think that I played at the old Wembley and playing there gave you a great buzz. This time round I’m not lucky enough to be taking to the pitch; it’s my players’ turn”.

Boosts

Former Spurs star Gareth Bale is still not ready to play, and Cristiano Ronaldo seems out of sorts despite bagging FIFA’s Best Player award last week. La Real have also lost last season’s top scorer Álavaro Morata to Chelsea, and top assist provider James Rodríguez to Bayern München.

Meanwhile, despite having lost their last two matches, Pochettino expects Harry Kane, recovering from injury to play a part in tomorrow’s match. Dele Alli, having served his three match European ban, is available too, and was taken to Madrid a fortnight ago even though he could not play.

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“When a player is not involved, you feel a little bit down”, Pochettino explained. “Sometimes he had to stay at the training ground, alone, training. It was not easy for anyone. Maybe he was affected a little bit about that. Now we’re so happy with the way he’s doing. His internal motivation is higher now, to try to compete at his best level. We’re very happy with his performances, he’s increasing his level. I’m not worried about him. It’s true, he’s disappointed too that he’s not at his best. But it’s coming, like the winter is coming”.

Having drawn at the Santiago Bernabéu, Tottenham have the chance to lay the Wembley Hoodoo to rest once and for all tomorrow night.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 1, 2017 18:06

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