'Absurd' to think Real could be banned from Champions League - Zidane
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Madrid (AFP) –
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on Monday hit back at calls for his club to be banned from the Champions League for their part in the failed European Super League proposals, saying the suggestion was "absurd".
The Spanish giants were one of 12 major European clubs to launch the ill-fated Super League last week, with the club's president Florentino Perez insisting the project could still go ahead despite nine of the teams withdrawing within 72 hours of the initial announcement.
UEFA threatened the clubs with "consequences" before the plans fell apart, but Zidane said any thoughts of a Champions League ban were misplaced.
"I have already given an answer to this. It is absurd to think we could not be in the Champions League. It is absurd, enough said," the Frenchman insisted ahead of his side's semi-final first leg against Chelsea on Tuesday.
"A lot is being said about this at the moment from outside and from within. What we need to focus on is tomorrow's game.
"All the rest is stuff we can't control, but my opinion is that we want to see Real Madrid in the Champions League next year."
Real chief Perez has been widely criticised for his part in creating the Super League.
"The president knows what I have in my heart and we are here to prepare for tomorrow's game. Now is not the time to talk about anything else," said Zidane.
The La Liga champions are bidding for a record-extending 14th European crown this season and host an in-form Chelsea side in the first leg.
Real slipped to a second draw in three league games in a stalemate with Real Betis on Saturday, leaving them two points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid with five matches to play.
The capital club host Osasuna this weekend before the second leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and then face league title rivals Sevilla in Madrid on May 9.
"We are alive in both competitions, we are not going to choose one over the other," added Zidane, who led Madrid to the La Liga and Champions League double in 2017.
"We have had lots of difficulties but we have always showed that we are capable of lifting ourselves. Now we have a month of the season left and we are going to compete until the end, whatever happens."
Eden Hazard returned from injury as a 77th-minute substitute against Betis, having made only one other brief substitute appearance since January.
"He didn't feel anything. We are pleased to have Eden with us. He will bring a lot to the team," said Zidane, who will also have midfielder Toni Kroos available after a recent muscle injury.
However, full-back Ferland Mendy has been ruled out of the Chelsea first leg.
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