Madrid turns focus from Super League to Champions League

Tuesday’s Champions League first leg against Chelsea in Madrid comes after widespread backlash against the attempt to create the new Super League.

Real Madrid will be playing in its ninth semifinal in 11 years, when it faces Chelsea on Tuesday (File photo)- AP

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wants nothing to do with the Super League.

Last week, the Spanish club was doing everything possible to make the controversial breakaway competition happen, attracting attention to it and trying to convince everyone it was a good idea.

Now, on the eve of the Champions League semifinals against Chelsea, Zidane is working hard to steer away from it.

“What we have to do is to compete and to only think about playing soccer. That’s it.

“If we start to think about everything that is being said ... it would make it worse. We can only think about the match. The referee will do his job. We have to compete as always. We can’t control the rest, so we can’t think about it," Zidane said on Monday.

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Tuesday’s first leg against Chelsea in Madrid comes after widespread backlash against the attempt to create the new Super League, which had Madrid president Florentino Pérez as one of its masterminds.

Chelsea also was among the founding members, but the team pulled out along with the rest of the English clubs immediately after the criticism surfaced.

Coach Thomas Tuchel said the game against Madrid wouldn't be affected by the off-the-field antics of the owners.

"I do not imagine that there is any advantage or disadvantage because of a sports political discussion. I don’t even want to think about it, because it does not exist in my eyes," Tuchel said.

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Madrid is playing in the Champions League semifinals for the ninth time in the last 11 seasons, having won four titles in that period.

It is coming off two consecutive eliminations in the last 16, though. Chelsea won the European title in 2012 and made it to the last four again two years later, but it hadn’t been back to the semifinals since then.

“What matters is the present. This Chelsea team has done its job in the Champions League and deserves to be in the semifinals. Just like Real Madrid deserves it. Chelsea also is a very experienced team. We will need to play two very good matches to advance," Zidane said.

Zidane will likely be able to count again on Eden Hazard, the former Chelsea forward who has been marred by injuries with Madrid but will be available to play on Tuesday.

Hazard's team-mate and defender Raphael Varane said that the winger was motivated and keen about the game against his former club on Tuesday.

“I talked to him and he is very motivated,” Madrid defender Raphael Varane said of Hazard. “You are always motivated when you are playing in a Champions League semifinal, and even more so if it’s against your former club. He knows our opponent very well.”

Madrid will also be boosted by the return of veteran midfielder Toni Kroos, who was rested in the team’s last three games. But Zidane won’t be able to count on left back Ferland Mendy and captain Sergio Ramos because of injuries.