Ready For Napoli, Leg 1

14 Feb

_3am9923thumbReady or not, here we go! It’s time for Napoli!


It was all hands on deck today, including Castilla’s Enzo – 24 players of the squad got down to work.


_3am0281_hthumbFROM REALMADRID.COM

Zidane: “Winning the Champions League is a long, hard road and we’re on that road”
by Javier Garcia | Photographer: Angel Martinez

“Napoli have fast, small and very mobile players. We’re going to have to fight and we must concentrate the whole game”, added the coach.

Zidane spoke to the media the day before the game against Napoli, in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 (Wednesday, 8:45pm): “We know that this competition is difficult. We’ll take it step by step and match by match. Every team wants to win the Champions League but it’s a long and hard road and we’re on that road. We’re in good shape and we’ve got all the players back. It’s more difficult to pick the squad now but I’m happy to see everyone ready for the Champions League”.

“We’ve got a very important Champions League game. The final is in Cardiff but we’ve got a knockout game now which we must fight in, against a very good opponent that will make things difficult for us. The players are really looking forward to playing”.

Not conceding goals
“In a two-legged tie it’s always important to not concede goals. At home the important thing is to keep a clean sheet. It’s our message, but more importantly, I want to go out focussed on our own game. It’s half of a knockout tie and tomorrow is the first game. We know we can cause them problems but they can cause us problems too. We’re ready for the game”.

Napoli’s attack
“With all due respect to Maradona, who has been one of the best, I’m more worried about those who’re on the field and those who’ll play tomorrow. We’ve got our weapons and it’s going to be a good match. That’s what I want to see tomorrow. They have fast, small and very mobile players. They are very technical, but we also have things that will cause them problems. They are going to have a lot of depth up front. We’re going to have difficult moments and we must concentrate the whole game”.

“Everyone’s entitled to express their opinion, but what’s important is that every day I see him focused and working hard. Everyone can ask for more from a player like Karim, but to me he looks good and I’m happy with his work”.

“Benzema is fine. Your job is to write what you think, but he looks good to me. He’s focused and of course I’d like to see him score goals tomorrow. It hurts me when all my players are criticised, not just Karim. They know that criticism is part of football and that it can help them grow”.

Cristiano-Benzema connection
“It’s a big advantage for us. It’s very important to finish off attacks. Karim allows other players score. We ask him to score, but he also makes assists and helps others play better. That’s what interests me the most. We all know Crisitano and we know what he can bring. He has a good understanding with Karim”.

“This is his first week back training with us, he’s in good shape physically. You’ll have to see whether he’s in the squad or not, or whether he’ll be in on the weekend. We’ll see. He’s had almost three months out and we have to take it slowly with Gareth. The important thing is that he’s back training with us”.

Kroos, three weeks without playing
“It’s a question of his head and mind. We really want to do well in this competition. We’re going to have to fight in this game. Although Kroos hasn’t played in three weeks, he’s ready because of his experience. We’ve got the 24 players fit again and that’s great news”.

“Madrid will always be one of the favourites in this competition. The badge doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win. You have to fight and try to play well. This is a very long road. We know that if we fight, we can always win games. They’re the values of Real Madrid: to always fight until the end with our fans, they really love us”.

“He’s in the squad and ready to play. Tomorrow you’ll see the team and the system that I am going to play. I can’t tell you the eleven”.

“He’s a good coach, his teams play very well and he’s got excellent results. He’s doing well”.

Italian Football
“When I arrived in Italy I grew a lot as a footballer. At Juventus, like here, it was important to keep going until the last minute. Now I’m at the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid, and I’m growing as a person and as a coach”.

_3am0168_hthumbFROM REALMADRID.COM

Modric: “Napoli are a very tough opponent but we’re at home and we want to win”
by Javier Garcia | Photographer: Angel Martinez

“We expect a good atmosphere at the Bernabéu; it’s a special competition for madridismo”, said the Croatian.

Luka Modric appeared with Zidane in the press room at Real Madrid City. The Whites’ midfielder explained his feelings ahead of the Napoli match: “They’re a very good team, not only in midfield. We’ll have to fight in defence, in the middle and in attack. It is important to start the match well, to go out strongly and play well. Hopefully we’ll play well and get a good result”.

“Napoli are a very tough team to beat and they’re on a good run, they’re playing very well, but we’re at home. We want to go in to the game very strongly from the start and show that we’re in good shape and we want to go out to win. We’ve won the last two games and we go in to this tie in good form. We are ready to do well and get a good result”.

Being knocked out by Celta
“It’s a different competition and what happened against Celta must be forgotten. We’re expecting a very difficult game and we have to play as we know how to and as we’ve played almost the whole season. We’re playing against a very tough opponent who are on a good run, but we’re at home and it is important for us to win the match. I hope we don’t concede any goals”.

His career
“I’ve played a good number of games and I expect to play many more. How have I changed? I’m sure that I’ve grown as a player and as a person. Being here surrounded by great players and a great coach makes you grow and mature. I’m very happy with my performance and I want to continue on this road for many years to come”.

“I know him, I’ve seen him several times. The last time was at the ‘The Best’ gala. We’re very happy to see him. He is one of the best players in history and a good person. Thank God that he’s not playing”.

“We also play well in this system. The important thing is not only the system, but what we do out on the pitch. What we have to do is give everything out there. It’s good to have multiple systems to be able to change during difficult times”.

“It’s a different competition and it’s very nice for madridismo, for everything we have done in history. We expect a good atmosphere and that the fans support us from the start, like they always do”.

“It’s always difficult when you don’t play because of injuries. Gareth has done his recovery well and he looks strong to me and ready to return as soon as possible. We miss him and we want him to come back as soon as possible. It hasn’t affected him so much, he’s fine mentally. We’re happy to have him back again”.

Two consecutive Champions Leagues
“This has never happened, but we think we can be the first team to do that. The key is not to think about it. We have to go step by step and tomorrow we have the first one. We want to be in Cardiff but we’re going game by game”.

rp_he26730thumbFROM REALMADRID.COM

Sarri: “We’ve got to show our character at the Bernabéu”

“It’s an important game for Napoli and the fans”, stated Callejón.

Maurizio Sarri, José Callejón and Raúl Albiol took to the media room at the Santiago Bernabéu on the eve of the Champions League round-of-16 first-leg clash to preview the fixture (Wednedsay, 8:45pm CET). The Italian boss had the following to say: “We’re starting to get better in terms of our mentality and that’s what’s behind this good run. As for our character as a team, we’ve still got things to prove and we’ve got to start to do that from tomorrow. Playing with fear just won’t work here”.

“If we end up spending the whole 90 minutes in our own area it has to be because of what the opposition did and not because we were unable to break out. We’ve got to approach the game with a bit of a crazy attitude as we try and impose our game, whilst recognising that we’re coming up against players that have won it all. I’m going to go with a very offensive line-up, but at the same time, one that allows us to defend properly”.

The Bernabéu
“There’s been a lot of talk about this stadium, its great prestige and how tough it is to come here. There’s an almost a mystic aura that surrounds it. Real Madrid are a very strong side and playing against them is tough for any team. They’ve got some very talented players, who can decide a game at any moment. That’s difficult to stop because there’s nothing you can do when you face real talent”.

Callejón: “It’ll be a special game”
“I’m sure that it’ll be a special game, Albiol and myself spent many years here and we won many matches. It’s an important game for the club and the fans. We’ll be looking to impose our game throughout the 180 minutes. It’ll be tough because they’re the reigning European champions, but we’re capable of doing something special because we’re a great side”.

Albiol: “Madrid are capable of doing whatever they want at the Bernabéu, we’ve seen them stage loads of fightbacks here.”

“The fact that the return leg is at San Paolo is important, but it won’t be a determining factor. I think that Madrid are the favourites, given their history and because they’re the current champions. We come here with a real desire to grow as a club and as a team and we’ve got all it takes to put in a good performance. Not losing at the Bernabéu would represent a good result. If we manage to score, that will be important for the return leg. We need to try and hurt them by playing our own game”.

Albiol: “The 90 minutes here are really tough”
“It’ll be a very tough game against the European and world champions. We’ll have to be very focused right from the off. The 90 minutes here are really tough and we’re aware of that. Madrid are capable of doing whatever they want here, we’ve seen them stage loads of fightbacks. We’ll give our all to make life hard for them to take a good result back to Napoli”.

Concentration levels
“Obviously a draw would be a good result, but our mindset is to go out and look to win. We can’t just focus solely on Cristiano, we’ll have to keep tabs on all of the Madrid players. That’s why we’ve got to be focused and not take our eye off the ball. Every piece of action will be tough”.

Call Ups

The following players were called up for the match:

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla and Rubén Yáñez.
Defenders: Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Varane, Nacho and Marcelo.
Midfielders: Kroos, James, Casemiro, Kovacic, Modric and Isco.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Lucas Vázquez and Morata.



Ramos: “Napoli are on form at the moment, we will have to be very careful in defence”

“We are the Champions and we can enjoy that feeling of defending the title and trying to win it again”, he added.

Sergio Ramos gave an interview to the official UEFA media before the Champions League knockout tie. The Whites’ captain spoke about the upcoming match against Napoli: “It’s going to be a tough match. They’re in good form, the Champions League is always difficult and the teams are dynamic, fast and play well on the counter, so we’ll have to be very careful in defence”.

We go in to the Champions League round of 16 and you have aspirations or being the first club to successfully defend your title, something that has not happened since 1991. I imagine you will be saying: “This time we can do it”.
If no one has done it, it’s because it’s very difficult. But we are the Champions and we can enjoy that feeling of defending the title and try to win it again, something that nobody has done. It is an extra motivation. We’ll go step by step, with humility and respect for the opponents that we come up against, and we’ll try to do things right.

How do you see Wednesday’s game against Napoli going?
It’s going to be a tough match. Napoli are on form at the moment, the Champions League is always difficult and the teams are dynamic, fast and play well on the counter, so we will have to be very careful in defence. We have to try to prevent them from scoring and do our best as we try to make it in to the next round.

This season is turning out to be your most prolific in front of goal. What is the reason for that: getting the chances or training?
It is a mixture. You spend many hours training, but you must have ambition. The DNA of Real Madrid is to fight to the end. That means that in any minute, even in the last, you must believe that everything is possible. I have dedicated a lot of time to aerial play, improving technique every day, and now I am getting the reward. This season I have passed my previous records. I hope to be able to get more and continue helping the team with decisive goals. But I must remember that the main job of a defender is not conceding goals and playing well.

Let’s talk about Zidane. How would you describe the impact he had upon arriving?
Very big. He is able to convey the humbleness and talent he had as a player to handle the dressing room when necessary. It’s a great virtue. He has that security, that closeness to the players. He knows how we think and in a dressing room like ours that is not easy because there are players from all over the world, from different cultures and customs. But he has been able to keep a balance in the dressing room. At the end, the team notices it and you can see the results out on the field. We are pleased with him and satisfied that he is the captain of our ship.

What does he bring tactically to the team?
He does really well in that respect. He studies each opponent to see how we can surprise them, how to be more effective based on how they play and I think he has got it right. People can say what they want but for me it has nothing to do with luck. The results are not an accident. We have overcome great teams. We’ve only got good results and records but that doesn’t win titles. We want to achieve our goals and we are on the right track.

You’ve played 500 matches for Real Madrid. You must feel very proud.
Yes. It has been a long time and I feel privileged to represent the best club in the world. Of course, if you are the captain it is also an extra. For me it is a great responsibility because you are one of the first people that people see and you have to be an example in every aspect. You need to pay attention to every detail, action, movement you make, both on and off the field. That has helped me to develop and become a better footballer and above all a better person.

How do you live with the pressure of playing for the best team in the world?
Either you learn to live with it or you are not ready to be here. The early years were the most difficult, but you gain experience with the mistakes you make and learn from them. They develop you as a person and a player. That’s what you need to deal with pressure. I will be eternally grateful to Real Madrid, they have trained me as a player and especially as a person when I’ve had to face a problem. I have been educated in such a way that I am much stronger. It is like a shield that protects you from external and critical sources.

What do you like most about being a football player?
Being happy and doing something that I like. Playing makes me free, happy and helps me disconnect from everything else. If you can do what you like and be happy doing sports and winning titles, what else can you ask for in life?


ramos_h_web1_he26791thumbThe team is currently holded up at their residence. For some reason, The Powers That Be thought that all we needed to see of that is a thumbs uppin’ Sergio. Hmmm, I guess that’s just about right.

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And G-Money was part of Adidas Gamedayplus…

Hala Madrid!

– Lozil

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