Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has argued his side are not favourites for Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool.
Madrid have won the last two finals and are heavily fancied to make it three titles in a row in Kiev.
However, Zidane is reluctant to recognise the fact that many are tipping his side for another win, instead insisting the teams begin the match on a level footing.
“People say a lot of things. We know it’s not that way,” he said. “A final is a final. We are not favourites, Liverpool are not favourites.
“What we have to do is play a great game. Favourites? In the dressing room, that’s not what we believe.”
ONE DAY TO GO!
— #UCLfinal (@ChampionsLeague) May 25, 2018
Zidane is also keen to ensure a third straight final appearance does not lead to complacency in his players, urging them to savour every moment of the dominance in European competition.
“We’re just enjoying this moment, enjoying the preparation, enjoying the fact we’re in another final,” he continued. “We’ve already lived many things and perhaps we will live through more of these amazing things or maybe it will never happen again, so we have to make the most of it.
“We are humans and us humans are fuelled on emotion and that makes things more beautiful in life.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp described Zidane’s tactics as a “good kind of chaos” earlier in the day and Zidane acknowledged those comments in his own assessment of how Saturday’s match will pan out.
“Football is very simple. There are two teams and you have to understand the way that you can do damage to the other team and control the damage that the other team can do to you,” he said.
“So, with your own philosophy of the way you play… we’ve had chaotic moments, tomorrow we’ll have more.
“But you have to minimise those moments, keep things tight, but there will be moments when you have to dig deep.”
Liverpool will work “until all avenues have been exhausted” to ensure fans who have had their flights to Kiev cancelled will be able to make it for the Champions League final.
On Thursday it was announced that three flights chartered by Worldchoice Sports had been withdrawn following a dispute with authorities in the Ukrainian capital regarding the size of the aircraft.
That left around 1,000 supporters facing up to the prospect of having to make last-minute travel plans for Saturday’s keenly anticipated showdown with Real Madrid.
But the Reds stepped in to help, releasing a statement in which the club pledged to do all they could to resolve the issue.
“Liverpool Football Club is continuing to work with all of the relevant stakeholders in the UK and Ukraine in an attempt to resolve a situation which has left around 1,000 fans without flights to Kiev for the Champions League final,” it read.
Liverpool FC is continuing to work with all relevant stakeholders in order to help resolve the situation that has left around 1,000 fans without flights to Kiev.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 24, 2018
“Along with officials from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Liverpool City Council, UEFA and the authorities in Kiev, Liverpool FC has been endeavouring to resolve the issue since it first came to light and will continue to do so until all avenues have been exhausted.”
The final being in Kiev has posed a logistical challenge for supporters of both clubs, with a group of Liverpool fans having set off aboard a coach on Thursday for a journey that spans over 1,700 miles.
Liverpool and Madrid were each allocated 16,626 tickets for the match.
Liverpool have the firepower to ‘blow Real Madrid away’ in Saturday’s Champions League final, according to ex-Anfield star Jamie Redknapp.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will seek to prevent Madrid claiming a third consecutive European crown in Kiev, having turned in some stellar performances en route to the showpiece.
Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored 29 goals between them in this season’s competition and Redknapp believes his old club have what it takes to overcome Zinedine Zidane’s men in style.
“If Liverpool blew Real Madrid away, it wouldn’t surprise me, it really wouldn’t,” the former England international told Omnisport.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) 21 May 2018
“Because of the strikeforce they’ve got and sometimes the way that Real Madrid defend, they’re an attacking defensive side. They don’t really look at the defensive side of the game.
“It’s not just Mo Salah. I think it would be disrespectful to not talk about Mo Salah, who’s had an unbelievable season. If you look after Salah, Firmino will hurt you and it’s the same with Mane.
“There’s so many different options and I think for Liverpool to not miss [Philippe] Coutinho after selling him [to Barcelona] for so much money just shows how well the manager has done.”
Kyiv looking ahead of the #UCLfinal
Who are you supporting? pic.twitter.com/yDUuYKTClC
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 23, 2018
Robbie Fowler, another favourite on the Red half of Merseyside, is also hopeful Salah can be the man to make the difference.
“He’s been fantastic,” said Fowler, who scored 183 goals in 369 appearances for Liverpool.
“I don’t think anyone could’ve foreseen what was going to happen, but he’s been magnificent.
“He’s got a big game, a big occasion, and he’s proven this year that he is the man for the big occasion, so he’s proven that he can do it.
“Fingers crossed he can do it in the Champions League final.”
Horoya defied a stunning Mamelodi Sundowns comeback to claim a 2-2 home draw in the CAF Champions League on Tuesday.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 51st minute, Ocansey Mandela pouncing from close range, but Khama Billiat capitalised on chaotic defending at the other end to slot a neat finish into the bottom-right corner.
And when Horoya goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye brought down the speedy Billiat in the box, Gaston Sirino stepped up to convert the penalty and seemingly complete a seven-minute comeback.
But Sundowns were denied their first win in this season’s CAF Champions League when Aboubacar Camara rose highest in the box to head home and keep Horoya unbeaten in Group C.
— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) May 22, 2018
Derby County have confirmed Gary Rowett has requested permission to speak to Stoke City regarding the vacant manager’s position at the relegated club.
The Potters last week parted company with Paul Lambert, who failed to keep the team in the Premier League after replacing the sacked Mark Hughes in January.
Stoke are preparing for life back in the second tier after 10 seasons in the Premier League.
Derby, meanwhile, lost in the Championship play-off semi-finals to Fulham, having finished sixth during Rowett’s first full season in charge.
“Derby County Football Club can confirm that Gary Rowett has asked for permission to speak with Stoke City regarding the vacant manager’s position at the bet365 Stadium,” a club statement read.
“The club is now in discussion with Stoke regarding the matter and will update our supporters in due course.”
Rowett had been the subject of interest from Stoke following the departure of Hughes, only to sign a new three-and-a-half-year deal with the Rams.
The 44-year-old previously impressed during spells with Burton Albion and Birmingham City.
Arkadiusz Milik scored his second goal in as many games as Napoli ended their season with a 2-1 home win over Crotone that condemned the Calabrian side to Serie A relegation.
The 24-year-old striker took his total for the 2017-18 league season to five goals in 16 appearances and he will head to the World Cup with Poland in confident mood after a strong end to the campaign for the Serie A runners-up.
Jose Callejon scored the second of Napoli’s goals, both of which were made possible by Lorenzo Insigne’s superior vision and accurate crossing, with Marco Tumminello’s late strike for the visitors their last in Serie A for the next year at least.
Milik propelled Napoli into the lead after 22 minutes, heading the ball back across goalkeeper Alex Cordaz and into the bottom corner of the net from close range after Insigne showed his quality with a run, turn and cross that opened up the Crotone defence.
Insigne’s unselfish play created Napoli’s second nine minutes later, the 26-year-old curling a cross from the left corner of the penalty area to the far post, where Callejon met it with a first-time shot on the half volley, side-footing the ball high into the net.
@J21Calleti sticks it away after Insigne’s cross from the left
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) May 20, 2018
Maurizio Sarri – whose future at Napoli remains in doubt – sent on Dries Mertens and club captain Marek Hamsik to see out the victory and, although Tumminello powered home in the 90th minute for third-from-bottom Crotone, the visitors ultimately knew from the outset victory at Stadio San Paolo to save themselves from the drop was a tall task.