Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is relaxed over criticism of star forward collective Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash with Napoli.
Madrid’s form has stuttered of late, with desperate comebacks required to beat Villarreal and draw with Las Palmas after a loss at Valencia last month.
Bale and Ronaldo missed out through suspension and injury respectively as Eibar were dispatched in a restorative 4-1 triumph on Saturday, where Benzema made light of his form struggles this season with a brace.
It prompted further questions over what Zidane’s most effective attacking line-up is, although the likes of Lucas Vazquez and Alvaro Morata are likely to look on from the bench with the much-vaunted “BBC” reunited at Stadio San Paolo.
“Everyone is here with an opinion every week. People change their opinion every week,” Zidane said when asked about the trio’s form at a pre-match news conference.
“I’m happy to have all my squad available except two or three that we’ve left at home. We’re all here and I’m happy for that.
“Everyone is free to have an opinion and decide who they think should play but it doesn’t bother me too much.”
Training in the in !#RMUCL
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 6, 2017
Zidane is familiar with the cauldron-like atmosphere at San Paolo from his playing days at Juventus and expects a typically high-intensity approach from Maurizio Sarri’s side, who are nursing a 3-1 deficit from the first leg.
“I’ve lived this atmosphere here as a player. It’s never been an easy place to come,” he said. “It’s a stadium where the fans really get behind their side, they are really involved in the game.
“But at the same time it is very nice. I like atmospheres like that when the fans get behind the team. It’s nice for their side but it is nice for the rival as well. It’s an extra motivation.
“I think it will be very intense and quick from the start. They have to score.
“They are a team who can play in two different ways. They can pressure you or they can try and do something different by playing quickly on the counter attack
“We know they’re a good side. They can do great damage to the rival.”
A Dries Mertens brace saw Napoli to a vital 2-1 win at similarly high-flying Roma in Serie A on Saturday and Zidane added: “When you beat the side in second away from home it gives you a lot of confidence. It gives them a lot of energy, I’m sure, that win.”