In the wake of Saturday’s dramatic Clásico triumph at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has stressed that his Real Madrid side cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Wolfsburg. Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday, cutting their deficit at the top of La Liga to seven points. But Zidane has made clear that he his squad has to forget about that triumph and their renewed La Liga title hopes in Germany.
“We're only thinking about tomorrow's match and about the Champions League game,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We're on good form because we've just won a game. We're in good shape, but not just on account of Saturday's game, before that one we were playing well too. Now we've got another game, it's a difficult one and we're going to prepare well for it.
"There are no favorites in the Champions League. Each and every game is important. Each game is like a cup final. In football if you ease off you end up paying for it. We're enjoying a good run and you always have to be focused on what we've got to do, and the players are. That's what I'm most interested in.”
There is no escaping the fact, though, that Real Madrid will start as big favorites to progress through to the semifinals. In terms of the experience of the two sides, there is no comparison. While the Spanish giants are seeking to make it six successive seasons in the last four of Europe’s premier competition, prior to this season Wolfsburg had only ever competed in the competition once, when they were knocked out at the group stage.
The recent form of the two sides also points strongly in Real Madrid’s favor. As Zidane’s side were celebrating their biggest win of the season this weekend, Wolfsburg were reeling from a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen.
Runners-up in the Bundesliga last season, Wolfsburg have now slipped down to eighth place in that table having taken just a solitary point from their last three matches. The Champions League has provided the only solace in an otherwise bitterly disappointing campaign. After eliminating Manchester United in the group stage, Dieter Hecking’s team got past another Champions League knockout stage debutante, Gent, in the Round of 16. And, despite being heavy underdogs, Hecking insists that they are now determined to make the most of what is arguably the biggest match in the club’s history.
“Motivation won't be a problem,” he said. “We have a big chance to perform on a great stage. Nobody thought we could get this far. But in the end I still say, 'this must not be the end for us.' We will look for our opportunity, even with this draw, and if we beat Real it would be one of the biggest sensations. So this is what we want to begin tomorrow.
“Since we were drawn against Real Madrid, we've been really excited. But is it the biggest match in our club's history? I think there have been other great games, though maybe this is the one with the most attention. It is extraordinary for every one of us and we want to demonstrate why we are still in this competition.”
Hecking has also said that central defender Naldo will be given a late fitness test as he seeks a return after six weeks on the sidelines. Real Madrid, meanwhile, will have a full squad to choose from with the exception of their French defender Raphael Varane.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 2, ESPN Deportes