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Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane criticises international break, wants players fit

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane criticises international break, wants players fit
From ESPN - March 17, 2018

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has questioned the timing of the upcoming international break and hopes his players return fit and healthy after playing with their countries next week.

Almost all of Madrid's players will head away for friendlies with their countries following Sunday's La Liga game at home to Girona -- including Wales international Gareth Bale, who is likely flying to the Far East for the China Cup despite missing some training with his club earlier this week.

On their return, Madrid face a La Liga trip to struggling Las Palmas followed immediately by the Champions League quarterfinals, with a La Liga derbi at home to Atletico Madrid between the two legs against Juventus.

Zidane said at a news conference that he had to respect the calendar, even if he appeared not to agree with it.

"We cannot change this," Zidane said. "We have 24 players, everybody fit, and 19 now go with their national teams. But in the end I cannot say anything. It is important for the player to represent their country. I do not know if this is the best date on the calendar, but we must respect that. I would like them all to return healthy, without any problems."

Bale appears to have dropped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu in recent weeks, beginning both Champions League round-of-16 games against Paris Saint-Germain on the bench, but Zidane denied that the 101 million summer 2013 signing from Tottenham Hotspur was unhappy with his current situation.

"Bale is not unhappy, not at all," Zidane said. "He is a different player, maybe, but he is not unhappy, he is with us, he is happy to be at this club, and has shown that he is an important player in this squad."

Madrid were drawn against Juventus, one of Zidane's former clubs, in the Champions League quarterfinals. They beat Juve 4-1 in last year's final in Cardiff, Wales.

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