Real Madrid aims to silence doubts against Atletico - Zinedine Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admits he will have to win over some doubters in Saturday's La Liga derbi at home to Atletico Madrid.
Zidane is still unbeaten since replacing Rafa Benitez as Madrid coach in January, however two draws in three away La Liga games have seen his side drop nine points behind clear La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Former Madrid galactico Zidane and Atletico coach Diego Simeone were rivals on the pitch in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with Simeone since having built an excellent reputation as a coach whose teams reflect his own teak-tough personality.
Ahead of their first meeting as opposition managers, Zidane said he respected what Simeone had done at Atletico in recent years, but was confident of putting forward his own ideas in Saturday's clash at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
"It is true it is a special game, a derby," he said. "There are people who doubt me as a coach, that is normal, everyone has an opinion. But I focus on what I do. I have my own clear ideas on what I must do. We will play against a great team, great coach, that's true. I respect him a lot as player and coach. But I must look for the key things so that we win the game."
Centre-forward Karim Benzema is set to return from the minor hip injury which saw him miss last weekend's 1-1 draw at Malaga, while Pepe could come back from his foot injury. But left-back Marcelo picked up a muscle strain at training on Thursday, and Gareth Bale is also sidelined due to his continuing calf issue.
"Marcelo had a strain in his hamstring," Zidane said. "And we must be careful with that, he has not trained today, will not be with us. Pepe has trained with us, Bale is still apart [doing recovery work]."
Atletico have won their last two La Liga visits to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, however they were beaten 1-0 there as Madrid progressed in last season's Champions League quarterfinal.
Zidane said he would not be changing his team's style in order to deal with Atletico's always physical approach.
"Atletico defend well but they are a complete team, strong, with good players," he said. "At Malaga we had problems with the second balls, and we have worked on that this week. Tomorrow will be a different game. We will play as we always do. We have physicality in the centre of the pitch, along with ability."
Even a draw on Saturday would leave Barcelona as huge favourites to retain the title, however Zidane said that no matter what happens he will always send his team out to win each La Liga game.
"We will not drop our hands until the end," he said. "There are points to play for. I am sincere about that. Always, when we drop points, it will be more difficult. But we have to be focused for our own games, in Champions too. Whatever happens, our season will not end tomorrow."
Zidane rejected recent criticism from his former Madrid teammate Ivan Helguera of playmaker Isco's lack of end product.
"I am happy with Isco's work," he said. "If you look at the goals, the assists, of course he must improve. He knows that, he is the first who wants to learn and do more. But I am happy with his defensive work, and what he does with the ball."
Teenage striker Borja Mayoral, scorer of a superb goal in Madrid's 3-1 UEFA Youth League victory over Manchester City midweek, would be in the derbi match-squad, Zidane confirmed.
"Tomorrow Borja Mayoral will be on the list," he said. "He is looking very good, scoring with the youth teams, and training very well, almost all week with us. He is ready to be with us."