Zinedine Zidane Jokes Real Madrid Would 'Eliminate' Liverpool in UCL Last 16

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2019

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane looks on before the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Club Brugge and Real Madrid CF at the Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges on December 11, 2019. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has joked his team are ready to "eliminate" Liverpool in the next round of the UEFA Champions League, should the draw put them together.

Los Blancos had already secured their spot in the last 16 of the competition before their 3-1 win over Club Brugge on Wednesday. They finished in second place in Group A behind Paris Saint-Germain, opening up the prospect of a challenging tie in the knockout stages.

Speaking about to the media his side, Zidane said he would fancy their chances up against anyone, even defending champions and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

"If we play Liverpool, we will eliminate them," the Frenchman said when asked whether the Reds were the team to avoid.Ā "We can't do anything about the draw."

The Merseyside outfit aren't the only difficult team that could come up against Los Blancos in the next round:

Dale Johnson @DaleJohnsonESPN

CONFIRMED #HalaMadrid #UCL Real Madrid's possible Champions League round-of-16 opponents will be one of: BAYERN MUNICH MANCHESTER CITY JUVENTUS LIVERPOOL RB LEIPZIG

Zidane went on to reflect on the performance in Brugge, with Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr. and Luka Modric on the scoresheet for Madrid.

"We are happy with the victory and with the way we played," he said. "We had difficulty with our game since they usually play with five at the back and, today, they played with four. It took 10 or 15 minutes for the players to adjust. The second half was better in every area."

Here are the highlights from the encounter, in which Zidane made a number of changes to his usual starting lineup:

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

How many 18 year olds can do this with their left foot ā­ļø https://t.co/TWN0Kq8MVU

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

Vinicius Junior gives Real Madrid the lead with his first #UCL goal šŸ‡§šŸ‡· āž”ļø https://t.co/7HX5uR4fHD https://t.co/sbH4PglYte

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

Luka Modric, on the money šŸ’° https://t.co/2fJz2yUNGA

The group stage saw Madrid produce some inconsistent displays, and Zidane would have been particularly concerned by the 3-0 loss to PSG in Paris.Ā However, there have been some signs of Madrid making improvements recently, and by the time the knockout stages come around, Zidane will be hoping Real are better equipped to deal with the rigours of European football.

While Zidane joked about the prospect of beating Liverpool, there's no doubt they are the side to avoid in the next round of the competition. Football writer Joel Rabinowitz praised the Reds after they qualified for the knockout phase with a win over Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday:

Joel Rabinowitz @joel_archie

That was a performance of European champions. Salzburg seriously impressive in lots of ways but kept them at arm's length and eventually wore them out. Thought the midfield were outstanding together.

In his time as manager at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp has never lost a two-legged European tie. In his first spell in charge at Real Madrid, the same applies for Zidane, who steered the team to three successive Champions League triumphs.

The two clubs have history in the competition too. They went head-to-head in the 2017-18 final, with Gareth Bale netting a memorable brace in a 3-1 win for Los Blancos; Reds star Mohamed Salah was infamously injured early in that game after a tangle with Sergio Ramos.