Eight Wounds

News for nerds

“They have won the Champions League and we have lost Cristiano Ronaldo,” Nacho Fernández conceded but the Real Madrid defender has warned Liverpool that, despite the shift in power on the eve of these clubs meeting for the first time since the 2018 final, Madrid’s history remains.

Real and resurrection go hand in hand. The side adrift domestically and on the verge of elimination in the Champions League group stages for the first time, and whose manager had the threat of losing his job hanging over him, are now unbeaten in 11 games, three points from the top in La Liga and determined to compete for the trophy they last lifted in Kyiv. They host Liverpool, whom they defeated that night, in the first leg of a quarter-final at Valdebebas on Tuesday.

“We never give anything up for lost,” said Zinedine Zidane. “Never, never, never. Where there’s life there’s hope. I trust my team. We can’t change [what people say], just work every day, which is why this team turns things around a lot. And now we’re in a good moment but it means nothing: we have to fight. Tomorrow will be a hard game and we will have to compete well.”

They must of course do so without Ronaldo – their record goalscorer – and against a team that Mohamed Salah suggested have built a winner’s belief of their own since the last meeting, however bad things are in the Premier League. In an interview with the Spanish sports daily Marca, the Egyptian said things shifted the moment he was dragged to the ground by Sergio Ramos and forced off early as Real won their third successive Champions League. Liverpool have become champions while Madrid have been diminished, the forward seemed to imply.

When that judgment was put to Nacho, he replied: “He hasn’t said anything that’s not true. But I don’t agree that there’s so much difference. We’re super-competitive, if you look at our history, we have won a lot, and we are focused on this game. We have a great squad and we’re in superb form.

“Salah is totally right but we won’t focus on that; we focus on our own things. Being favourites or not is really not important to us. We can leave that to you [the media], to friends, to people who want to have an opinion. We know what it means to represent Madrid in games like this.”

Asked if people were too quick to write Madrid off, Nacho said: “The manager said a few games ago that we at least had the right to be respected and the right to fight for the league. Now we’re three points off the leader.

“We’re at a club where we live with the pressure day after day but we know how to handle that and when the big moments like this come around we give our best to finish the season with success as we have done a lot.

“[Liverpool’s] front four are in a spectacular moment. They’re among the best in the world, without doubt. I am sure they will have the idea of revenge [for 2018] and will want to win – but we want that, too. They lost that final but we will have the same desire as them.”