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'I have the strength needed,' said Zinedine Zidane as slumping Real Madrid prepared to face Sevilla © AFP/File OSCAR DEL POZO

Football

Under-fire Zidane asks Madrid players to stand up and be counted

MADRID, Spain, Dec 4 – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane takes his side to Sevilla this weekend after insisting he has no intention of resigning despite a disastrous recent run.

Madrid have won just once in La Liga since October and crashed to a 2-0 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday, meaning they must beat Borussia Moenchengladbach next week to advance from the group stage.

In La Liga, Real have drawn with in-form Villarreal, were edged out at lowly Alaves and were hammered at Valencia since their last league victory, leaving the champions in fourth place, seven points off leaders Real Sociedad.

“I have the strength needed to turn the situation around and I am going to give everything to do that, so are the players,” Zidane said after the loss in Ukraine.

“We have to lift ourselves up and think about the next match. We’re on a bad run, there’s nothing else to do other than think about the next match and move on.

“In difficult moments, you have to show character,” he added.

Spanish press reports have linked former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and ex-Madrid forward Raul forward to the Frenchman’s job.

According to AS, Real’s captain Sergio Ramos called a squad meeting this week, exhorting his team-mates to give “an extra push until the end of the year.”

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“This is Real Madrid, gentlemen. Together, we’ve come out of worse,” Ramos reportedly said ahead of the trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium where they have lost on six of their last eight visits.

Saturday’s hosts went unbeaten in the Spanish top-flight throughout November, hitting form after a sluggish start to the season under former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui.

Spain playmaker Suso is set to return for the Europa League champions after being sidelined for six weeks with a muscle injury.

Player to watch: Joao Felix

Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix scored his eighth goal of the season in Tuesday’s draw with Bayern Munich © AFP/File / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

The Atletico Madrid attacker is on the verge of already equalling his goal tally for last season, when he hit nine, finally showing justifying his 126 million euros fee.

The price tag for his move from Benfica made him the second most expensive teenager in history, behind only what Paris Saint-Germain paid for Kylian Mbappe. In his first season at Atletico, Felix appeared to feel the burden of the transfer fee and his progress was also hampered by missing 13 games through injury.

On Saturday, Atletico host 17th-place Real Valladolid and a win could send them top temporarily with Sociedad heading to Alaves a day later.

Fixtures

Friday (all times GMT)

Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo (2000)

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Saturday

Levante v Getafe (1300), Sevilla v Real Madrid (1515), Atletico Madrid v Real Valladolid (1730), Cadiz v Barcelona (2000)

Sunday

Granada v Huesca (1300), Osasuna v Real Betis (1515), Villarreal v Elche (1730), Deportivo Alaves v Real Sociedad (2000)

Monday

Eibar v Valencia (2000)

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