He may be without many of his key players, but Zinedine Zidane is eager for his Real Madrid side to hit the ground running when it begins its preparations for the new season against Paris Saint-Germain at the Ohio Stadium on Wednesday. The match will be the first of three matches for Madrid in the U.S. and the first since lifting the Champions League title in Milan two months ago.
The man who struck home the winning penalty that night, Cristiano Ronaldo, is one of a number of players, along with Gareth Bale, Pepe, Toni Kroos, not to have made the trip after their involvement in Euro 2016. Three more – Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric and James Rodriguez – will not feature in Columbus.
With just two weeks until Real Madrid takes on Sevilla in the European Super Cup, it gives Zidane little time to prepare his squad. But he insists he won't be rushing any players back.
“We have to prepare well for the season and we're working hard,” he said in his press conference ahead of the game. “The Euros finished late and we're not going to take any risks. I want the players to be at 100 percent when they come back. We've got a big enough squad to be able to replace people. We're always going to put the best team out. We've got an important game on the 9th and we have the players to play a good game in the European Super Cup.
“It's the first match and we want to start well. Everyone will play because they've worked really well over the last ten days. We want to give some minutes to everyone so they'll all get their chance.”
It is likely to be two different sides in the first and second halves for Real Madrid against PSG, although Zidane did state that he would begin with two men up front. That could well mean Karim Benzema being paired with the club's sole signing this summer: Alvaro Morata.
For Morata, it will be a big chance to impress Zidane, with his future still up in the air. Having been re-signed from Juventus, there continues to be speculation that he will be immediately sold on if Madrid are able to make a sizable profit.
Given Real Madrid's reputation for making huge signings, it has been an exceptionally quiet transfer window thus far. And Zidane has hinted that he would like to bolster his squad before the start of the season.
“You can always improve a squad, but it's difficult for this team to improve because the best footballers are always here and we became champions of Europe with these players,” he said. “In football there are always good players elsewhere. You can always make improvements to any squad. There's always a player who can make the team better.”
PSG is another club that is no stranger to big-money transfers. It's biggest signing so far, though, has been that of coach Unai Emery. The 44-year-old arrives as the replacement for Laurent Blanc having led Sevilla to three successive Europa League titles. He also secured a victory over Real Madrid in La Liga last season, although in the only matchup against Zidane, Real Madrid ran out 4-0 winners in March.
Emery has brought Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak with him from Sevilla, but he is one of the players to have joined the squad in the U.S. late and won't feature in Columbus. Marco Verratti and David Luiz will also remain at the team's base in Los Angeles.
Kickoff Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
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