Zidane leans on squad to bounce back from rare defeat

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Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane / AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane insists he has no reason to panic and will once again use the depths of his squad against Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday looking to bounce back from a first defeat in 40 games.

Madrid conceded twice in the final five minutes in losing 2-1 to Sevilla on Sunday to see their lead at the top of La Liga over the Europa League holders cut to one point.

Real did get the better of Sevilla in the Cup last 16 despite Zidane heavily rotating his side with Cristiano Ronaldo not even making the squad for both legs of a 6-3 aggregate win.

And, whilst Zidane refused to confirm whether the four-time World Player of the Year will make his first appearance in this year’s competition in the first leg of their quarter-final at the Santiago Bernabeu against Celta, the Frenchman insisted a first defeat since April last year won’t discourage him from rotating once more.

“We are a group of 24 and I am going to use everyone,” Zidane said on Tuesday.

“I am going to count on all 24 until the end (of the season). If we win something it will be because of the 24 players, I am sure of that.”

Ronaldo netted from the penalty spot at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday but was otherwise largely ineffective.

However, Zidane rejected suggestions the Portuguese was rusty due to his lack of playing time in 2017.

“Everyone will have their opinion. Some say it is best to rest, others that it is better to have rhythm.” added Zidane. “You will see tomorrow whether he plays.”

Isco returns to Zidane’s 19-man squad after missing the defeat at Sevilla through injury, but James Rodriguez, Pepe and Gareth Bale remain out.

Celta will definitely be missing one of their star men as coach Eduardo Berizzo said on Tuesday that Chilean international Fabian Orellana will not play again for him due to an “unacceptable lack of respect.”

“I have decided to remove him from the squad. The decision is based in an unacceptable lack of respect,” said Berizzo.

“With me he will no longer belong to the team.”

– Sociedad hoodoo –
Barcelona aren’t in action until Thursday when they travel to Real Sociedad hoping to end an eight-game winless run in San Sebastian, stretching back to 2007.

The Catalans were so outplayed on their most recent visit to Anoeta in November that coach Luis Enrique described their 1-1 draw as “almost a miracle”.

However, after a difficult start to the year, Barca have begun to find their form in the past week in defeating Athletic Bilbao to reach the last eight before hammering Las Palmas 5-0 on Saturday.

Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Neymar are set to return after being rested at the weekend, but Brazilian international midfielder Rafinha was ruled out on Tuesday with a hamstring injury.

Eibar have reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, but face a daunting task to reach the last four as they travel to Atletico Madrid for the first leg of their tie on Thursday.

Alcorcon are also making their bow in the last eight as the only second division side left in the competition and welcome Alaves on Wednesday.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Quarter-final, first leg

Wednesday

Alcorcon v Alaves (1815), Real Madrid v Celta Vigo (2015)

Thursday

Atletico Madrid v Eibar (1815), Real Sociedad v Barcelona (2015)

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