Madrid: French legend Zinedine Zidane takes charge of Real Madrid for the first time when Deportivo la Coruna visit what is expected to be a sold out Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. The Madrid fans turned out in their thousands to welcome Zidane at his first training session on Tuesday, hours after he replaced the sacked Rafael Benitez, who paid the price for his unpopularity with the club’s stars and fans alike after just seven months in the job.
By contrast, Zidane is beloved at the Bernabeu for his five years as a player in the Spanish capital, most notably scoring a sensational winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final. Yet, Deportivo’s visit will be his first match in senior management having only previously coached Madrid’s feeder team Castilla for the past 18 months.
Zidane has a tough task if he is to deliver only Madrid’s second league title in eight years with Real trailing league leaders Atletico Madrid by four points and Barcelona by two — having also played a game more than the European champions.
“This is a difficult but stimulating challenge, I want to take up the challenge and do my utmost to win titles,” said Zidane. “I will be satisfied with winning everything. Our objective is to win, we have two titles that we can win and we are going to try until the end of the season,” he added.
Zidane has signalled his intention to retain the star attacking trident of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front and will have a fully-fit squad to choose from after captain Sergio Ramos returned to training on Thursday.
Despite their struggles under Benitez, Madrid have been lethal at home since suffering a 0-4 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona in November, scoring 25 goals in their last four games at the Bernabeu. However, Deportivo’s resurgence under former Madrid midfielder Victor Sanchez has been one of the revelations of the season. They have only lost three times in the league this season and have already taken points off Barcelona and Atletico.
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