Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he is looking forward to facing his former mentor in the looming Champions League quarterfinal against Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich, admitting that there will be a “master versus pupil” feel to the occasion.
Friday’s draw set up a round-of-eight tie full of interesting plot lines, with Madrid playing the first leg in Munich on April 12, and the return taking place at the Bernabeu the following Tuesday.
Zidane played under Ancelotti at Juventus, was then assistant when the Italian guided Madrid to the 2014 Champions League final, and was still at the Bernabeu when president Florentino Perez fired the much-loved “Carletto” just 12 months later.
Speaking at a news conference just after the draw was completed, Zidane said he had learned a lot working under Ancelotti and fondly remembered their time working together.
“It will be master against pupil for sure,” Zidane said. “I was with him as assistant. l learned a lot from him. I’ve not spoken with him [since the draw]. He did great things at this club, and is a very good person. I had the good fortune to get to know him well.”
The former Galactico player said that in the end it would be the players who decided which team made the semifinals, and recalled how much he had looked forward to such huge occasions in his own days on the pitch.
“You must remember it is the players who will be on the pitch,” Zidane said. “The most important is not the system, it is the attitude, the determination of the players.
“I live for these games — when I played I preferred these type of games. These [occasions]are very exciting for me.”
The draw means that Madrid will have a very challenging April, with their La Liga schedule including home games against Alaves, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona plus a trip to relegation battling Sporting Gijon, all around the two games against Bayern.
“Everything will be decided after the coming international break,” Zidane said. “April will be tremendous for us. But we have a group, a squad, to do good things. The best part of the season is coming now, when it is decided.
“The players know that and we are focused on our objectives — which is to try and win everything.”
With Gareth Bale returning from suspension, Zidane is expected to name his “BBC” strikeforce in the strongest available XI in Saturday’s La Liga game at Athletic Bilbao, who are unbeaten at home in La Liga since August.
“They have only lost to Barcelona [at home],” Zidane said. “We know that it will be an even more difficult game than others we have. We know it is a warm atmosphere in the stadium.
“We must try and play a great game, and keep picking up points as we have been doing. These are three very important points for us. They have been playing well. We will suffer at times — but we have confidence and personality. And we must put in all those ingredients to win.”
Zidane also spoke about Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe, with local media reports saying the Spanish giants are considering making another move for a player they tried to sign three years ago when he was just 15.
“[Mbappe] almost signed for Real Madrid, was very close, but in the end he went to Monaco,” he said. “Today I cannot talk of that. We know he is a good player, what he is doing for his age is fantastic. But nothing more. What is most important is what we can do tomorrow in the game.”