Facing elimination, Zidane hopes to turn jeers into cheers

MADRID (AP) " The negativity coming from the Real Madrid fans seems to be weighing on Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid leads the Spanish league, but the team was jeered despite beating Malaga 2-1 on Saturday. Both goals came from set-pieces scored by Sergio Ramos, and they came less than a week after the team lost at home to Celta Vigo 2-1 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

"I didn't say if the jeering was fair or not, just that we are all working hard and we want the same thing the fans do. There will always be some booing in this stadium. That will not change. But we need the fans' support," Zidane said Tuesday, visibly irritated by the constant questions surrounding the team's decaying physical status.

"You would think we are last in the league, struggling to avoid relegation. Of course we worry when there's an injury or we lose a game, but we are upbeat and looking forward to playing well against Celta. It's an appealing game to play for us. We know we need to score, and reverse what happened in the first leg."

The second leg is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a match against fifth-place Real Socieded on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Madrid is still without injured winger Gareth Bale, who underwent right ankle surgery last year. The team will also have to do without defender Marcelo and midfielder Luka Modric, who were injured on Saturday, and stopper Raphael Varane won't make the trip either, though no medical report was provided to explain his unexpected late cut.

Even Cristiano Ronaldo, the team's leading scorer with 12 goals, seems ailed with a foot injury from the match against Malaga.

"He's OK. I'm just thinking about the game tomorrow, not the next league match," Zidane said. "Ronaldo will play."

With a one-goal deficit to overcome in Vigo and an edgy fanbase lurking back in Madrid, Zidane said it was up to him to jump-start the team and avoid another early setback in the Copa del Rey.

"I was sad on Saturday because of the injuries, but that can only last one day. Now it's back to work, same as always," Zidane said. "It wouldn't be our biggest failure if we get eliminated tomorrow, but I'm not even thinking about that possibility."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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