No other option but to focus on winning: Zidane

After four goals in his last four La Liga matches, Karim Benzema is disappointed not to have found the back of the net during Real Madrid's 1-0 loss to Mallorca on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS
After four goals in his last four La Liga matches, Karim Benzema is disappointed not to have found the back of the net during Real Madrid's 1-0 loss to Mallorca on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL • Real Madrid travel to Turkey for their Champions League Group A tie at Galatasaray today in the knowledge that any result other than a win could move the club one step closer to exiting the competition at the group stage for the first time.

Having garnered only one point from a possible six, the La Liga giants must now navigate a double-header with the Turkish champions, and coach Zinedine Zidane is aware the trip to Istanbul will be an exacting test for his players, whose confidence remain shaky.

Galatasaray fans are notorious for greeting opposing teams with "Welcome To Hell" banners and flares, and the Frenchman urged his side not to let the intense atmosphere get to them.

Calling it a "must-win game", he said: "We know what we're playing for. We need to play to win because there's no other option there. We need to focus on winning on Tuesday."

But his task has not been made any easier with injuries to Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, and the pair were left out of the travelling squad alongside Nacho Fernandez, Lucas Vazquez and long-term absentee Marco Asensio.

Eight first-team regulars missed their first La Liga loss of the season as Real slumped to a 1-0 defeat by Mallorca on Saturday night, and while Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos made the trip, it remains to be seen what role the trio can play in Turkey.

Zidane's men also have a poor record at Galatasaray, having lost in two of their past three visits in the competition, although he can take solace in the equally mixed form of the hosts.

Fatih Terim's players are in an uncustomary fifth place in their domestic league, four points behind surprise leaders Alanyaspor (17), while new signing Radamel Falcao has played only a handful of games owing to injury.

While he remains a big doubt, the Colombia striker is hopeful he can recover in time against a team he is intimately familiar with as a former Atletico Madrid player.

Expressing his confidence that Galatasaray can "get the results we want if we compete as we know we can", Falcao told Spanish daily AS: "Real Madrid will be arriving with some doubts in their minds, but they are Real and they have some great players.

"It's always a motivation to play against great clubs and it's exciting for any player to play against Madrid. Hopefully, we can put on a show, take three points."

XINHUA

GALATASARAY V REAL MADRID

Singtel TV Ch113 & StarHub Ch215, tomorrow, 2.50am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2019, with the headline 'No other option but to focus on winning: Zidane'. Print Edition | Subscribe