Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has backed Keylor Navas and Luka Modric to come good during the most important part of the season.
On Wednesday, Madrid go to neighbours Leganes for the first time ever in a Primera Division match just four days ahead of Saturday’s derby at home to Atletico Madrid, and with huge clashes against Bayern Munich and Barcelona coming later in April.
Ahead of this critical spell there had been speculation that goalkeeper Navas could be dropped, following a string of errors through the season, especially as backup Kiko Casilla has kept the team’s only two clean sheets during the last two months of play. However Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday that he continued to have faith in the Costa Rica international.
“Keylor is the Madrid No. 1,” he said. “There is no doubt about that. So when I take him out it is not as I doubt Keylor, not at all. The only thing I do is to give Kiko a chance to play. And he does well when he plays.”
Croatia playmaker Modric has also been under the microscope after being substituted in six of his last eight Madrid starts. Zidane, however, said he did not agree that the 31-year-old’s starting spot was in danger.
“People saying Modric is playing badly is what worries me [not his performances],” he said. “Maybe in the last game he gave the ball away a few times, but players cannot always play 90 minutes well, across 50 or 60 games, that is impossible. I am not worried about Luka, I am happy with what he does on the pitch. Everyone can do better of course, but to play well, always, is impossible.”
Centre-back Raphael Varane, who limped out of Sunday’s 3-0 La Liga win at home to Alaves with a recurrence of a left hamstring injury, is definitely out of Madrid’s next games. Tests have now found a grade two injury in the same muscle, although Zidane said he did not think the problem was too serious this time around.
“The tests say it is not so serious,” he said. “It is not as he had before, and then before in May, which was very strong. It is small, but in the same place as the scar. I don’t know how long Rafa will be out. But Pepe is doing well, he is a leader, important for this team. We will use Pepe and Nacho, who is doing well too.”
Zidane was not keen to comment on claims in Marca that Madrid would spend €24 million this summer to sign Theo Hernandez, a 19-year-old left back impressing on loan from Atletico Madrid at Alaves this season.
“[Theo] is a good player,” Zidane said. “There is no doubt about that. But nothing else. I am focused on what I must do with my players, nothing else. I cannot say anything about that.”
The focus for everyone around the Bernabeu was just on getting three points against Leganes to remain in control of the title race, Zidane added.
“We are always going to think that the next game is the most important,” he said. “So for us it is not a potential slip-up, as we do not think we will win it easily. That does not happen in football. It will be very difficult, against a team who lately have been playing well.”