Real Madrid’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) and other players take part in a training session in Yokohama on December 17, 2016. Real Madrid of Spain will play Kashima Antlers of Japan in the Club World Cup final football match at Yokohama International stadium in Yokohama on December 18.
TORU YAMANAKA / AFP
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admitted on Saturday his players were suffering from cabin fever after spending almost a week couped up in a Japanese hotel.
As the European champions prepare to plunder more silverware at the Club World Cup, Zidane has noticed his players becoming restless before the final against Japan’s Kashima Antlers in Yokohama on Sunday.
“To be honest it is very boring having to spend a week in a hotel,” the Frenchman told reporters.
“The players want to relax and do fun stuff but we understand that it’s part of the job. We have to be professional and treat it as a training camp,” added Zidane, whose side beat Mexico’s Club America 2-0 on Thursday.
“We didn’t start too well in our first game, which was partly down to the long journey and a lack of training but we came here to win the trophy and we will be ready tomorrow.”
Asked for his thoughts on Real’s Japanese opponents, the best Zidane could muster was: “They run a lot.”
But Zidane insisted the Spanish giants — chasing a second world title in three years — would not make the same mistake as Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, who were ambushed 3-0 by Kashima in midweek.
“Kashima are in the final because they deserve to be,” said Zidane, who has overseen a club record unbeaten run of 36 matches.
“We don’t strut around before games thinking we’ve won before they have started just because we are Real Madrid — we go into battle every game and we show our quality game after game, as we will tomorrow.”
– Ramos return –
Real have become European kings for the 11th time and added a Super Cup title since Zidane took over from Rafa Benitez in January.
“I believe in the power of positive thinking,” said Zidane.
“I haven’t been coach for long but I’m blessed with great players and I’m happy how it’s gone so far.”
Zidane welcomes back captain Sergio Ramos for the final after the defender sat out the America game with fatigue.
“Sergio is our captain,” shrugged Zidane. “I expect him to be able to play 90 minutes tomorrow.”
Ramos scored crucial late goals in Real’s previous two games in La Liga but wants to put the world club final to bed early.
“The important thing is to win,” he said after completing a full training session.
“Of course I would love to score but I don’t want to wait until the last minute again. Tomorrow is a final so we have to believe in ourselves and get the job done.”
Kashima manager Masatada Ishii tried to play down the expectations of excitable local media.
“We have a chance to show that Japanese football has closed the gap a little bit,” he said.
“I envy the players being able to play in such a big game, although when I was a player I wasn’t that good — I would have been cheering from the bench.”