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Real Madrid-Napoli: Zidane on Bale, Benzema, James...

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Real Madrid-Napoli: Zidane on Bale, Benzema, James...

Real Madrid-Napoli: Zinedine Zidane's Champions League last-16 press conference

JUAN MEDINA

REUTERS

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane gave his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane spoke to the media today as Los Blancos prepare to host Napoli in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.

Here's what Zidane had to say:

Criticism of Karim Benzema: "Everyone's entitled to express their opinion, but what's important is that every day I see him focused and working hard. I'm happy with his work."

How is Gareth Bale doing? "This is his first week back training with us - he's in good shape, he's recovered well. You'll have to see whether he's in the squad [to face Napoli] or not, or whether it's this weekend. He's had almost three months out and we have to take it slowly."

Making sure not to concede: "In a two-legged tie that's always the case. You know that when you play your home leg the most important thing is to keep a clean sheet."

Zidane oversees Real Madrid's last training session before Wednesday's Champions League clash.

Focus: "I want us to be focused in the way we go about things. we know it's 50/50; we have the first game at home tomorrow and we know that we can hurt the other team and that they can cause us problems too. We're ready; that's the most important thing."

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri: "He's a very good coach. His teams play good football, he's got excellent results and that means that he's doing his job very well."

Trying to be the first side to retain the Champions League: "We know how difficult this competition is. We're going to take it step by step and game by game. Every team wants to win the Champions League, but it's a long, hard road and we're on that road. We're in good shape, we have everyone back available."

Tomorrow's game as the first 'cup final' of the season: "It's a very important game, we know of its importance - but the final is in Cardiff. We have two games, the first one tomorrow, and we're going to be in for a tough battle. We're happy to be playing [the Champions League] again. We're very excited."

What did his experience as a player in Italy give him? "When I arrived in Italy, I was young and I think it helped me to grow a lot as a footballer. At Juventus, the most important thing is to stand up and be counted right to the last minute. Now I'm at the biggest club in the world and the story continues. I'm still growing as a person and now as a coach."

Karim Benzema (left), Gareth Bale (centre) and Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid's final training session before facing Napoli.

Champions League just the tonic for under-fire Benzema? "I don't know what to say to that... I think he's in good shape. You [the press] are here to write and express opinions, but he's really focused."

Champions League favourites: "Real Madrid will always be among the favourites. But the crest on your shirt isn't going to guarantee you anything. You have to fight hard; it's a long, hard competition. We know that we can always win games if we fight from the start to the end - those are the values of this club."

Threat from Napoli: "They have good players, good movement, a lot of intensity. Players who are technically very good. They have a lot of penetration [in attack], they're very quick, intense. How can we counteract that? Concentration. It's a question of concentration. We're going to have to dig in at times. And what also most interests me is what we then do in attack."

Does James Rodríguez have a chance of playing tomorrow? "He's in the squad, he's ready to play. You'll see tomorrow what team we put out. I can't tell you what XI I'm going to pick."

Will you be reverting to a 4-3-3? "You'll see tomorrow. I'm sorry: I know that you wait ten minutes to ask a question and then I give you a short answer like that."

Benzema-Cristiano connection: "Karim helps other players to score. We want Karim to score, but the most important thing is the way he helps others to play better."

Napoli v Real Madrid coverage | Champions Match

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