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Pressure returns on Real as Zidane reunites with Juventus

Madrid, Monday @PeopleSports11

Zinedine Zidane said last week he wants to stay at Real Madrid but how welcome his wishes are will depend on the team’s Champions League tie against Juventus.

Real face Zidane’s former club in the first leg of the quarter-final on Tuesday, knowing their season, and perhaps the Frenchman’s future as coach, hinges on reaching the last four.

It was the same in the previous round against Paris Saint-Germain. Real’s limp La Liga title defence, combined with their early exit from the Copa del Rey, means they now have only one shot at winning a major trophy this term.

The mood in Madrid, however, is upbeat. Real have won 10 out of their last 11 matches, a run that has seen them brush aside PSG and move to within four points of second-placed Atletico Madrid in the league. They have scored 36 goals in that period, at an average of just over three a game.

“The match comes at a good time for us,” Real forward Lucas Vazquez said. “We have been doing things well for the last few months, playing better, more goals, it’s a good moment and now we have to try to take advantage of it in this tie.”

Zidane, therefore, declared his intentions on Friday from a position of strength but lose to Juventus and his pledge might look more like a plea. Despite winning back-to-back Champions Leagues and the La Liga title last year, he is still not immune to the weight of Real’s expectation.

Zidane will be returning to Turin for the first time as a manager, his last outing as a player there coming in March 2005 when Real were beaten 2-0 by the Old Lady in the Champions League last 16.

David Trezeguet’s goal and an extra-time winner from Marcelo Zalayeta sealed victory for Juve, then managed by Fabio Capello, against a Real side that included David Beckham, Ronaldo and Thomas Gravesen.

Thirteen years on, Gianluigi Buffon is the only player likely to make a repeat appearance this week but the two current teams need no introduction, their latest meeting coming in the competition’s final last year.

That 4-1 victory remains the high-point of Zidane’s Real tenure, not only because it earned him an unprecedented second consecutive Champions League crown but because of the sheer ruthlessness of the performance. -AFP

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