Zidane hails 'formidable' rival Klopp

Reuters
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has hailed "formidable" opposite number Juergen Klopp ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool.
Reuters
Reuters

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane (center), striker Cristiano Ronaldo and midfielder Casemiro (left) attend a training session during the club’s Media Open Day in Madrid yesterday, ahead of their UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday. 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has hailed “formidable” opposite number Juergen Klopp ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool.

Zidane was full of praise for the English club’s German coach, who has led Liverpool to two European finals since he took the helm towards the end of 2015.

“I don’t know him personally, I’ve never spoken with him, but I’ve seen his work and it’s formidable,” Zidane said.

“He has shown it over the years, not only at Dortmund but also now with Liverpool, too. I respect him a lot for what he’s doing in the Champions League and Premier League.”

The Frenchman also said he expects a clash of styles when the two sides meet on Saturday.

“I don’t think we play the same kind of football as a team,” he said, adding that Real will be fully prepared and does not expect any surprises.

“Everyone speaks about the three up front (Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane) and says they’re less at the back, but they’re a team unit. They’ve got to the final and deserve to be there, just like us.

“My work with the staff is to prepare for the game well, as we always do, and try to do them damage.”

He warned Liverpool that his side is as hungry as ever to win the UCL, rejecting claims that the Spanish giant might have lost its edge ahead of the final in Kiev.

There have been some suggestions that Real, having won the past two finals, might not be as motivated as Liverpool, with the English club not having tasted European glory since 2005.

“I can’t talk for the opponents, but we always have the same desire as we always do and nobody can say we don’t,” Zidane told the news conference.

“We are in a third final and we have the chance to do something historic and win it three times in a row. You can’t say Liverpool have more hunger than us; it simply isn’t true.

“Nobody can take our hunger away from us. We’re Real Madrid ... We always want more and will always give our all to get more.”

The Frenchman also said that his side’s experience of playing in and winning three finals in the past four years will have no bearing on the outcome. By comparison, no player in the Liverpool squad has reached this stage of the competition before.

“It’s a one-off game, in a neutral venue. We’re ready for it, but our experience doesn’t count,” Zidane said.

“Granted, we have more, but we need to show that we want to win it. Our experience doesn’t count for anything. It’s a final, they (Liverpool) haven’t played in a lot of them, but they’ll kill themselves for this and we know it.”

Inevitably, talk turned to star men Cristiano Ronaldo and Salah, but Zidane was unequivocal when asked if he would swap the Portuguese for Liverpool’s Egyptian star.

“Cristiano is the best, he shows it every year,” the coach said. “Sometimes pressure gets to players and it spurs others on. He is certainly the latter. He’s of maximum importance to us.”


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