Zinedine Zidane has warned Real Madrid that Atalanta could stun them like Ajax did two seasons ago in the Champions League.
Madrid take on the Serie A side in Bergamo on Wednesday, aiming to progress from the last 16 for the first time in three seasons.
Manchester City handed Zidane his first knockout tie loss as Madrid boss in the Champions League last term, while Ajax romped to a 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2019 when Santiago Solari was at the helm.
Atalanta’s bold and aggressive attacking play has led to parallels being drawn between Gian Piero Gasperini’s side and Ajax – something Zidane addressed at his pre-match news conference.
“They can be [like Ajax]. They’re a very attacking team, a team who we know, offensively, are very good,” he said.
“They have a lot of players going forward. As a whole, as a team, they’re very strong physically.
“I don’t really like to compare teams – Atalanta are Atalanta, a specific team with their own style – but I can say tomorrow is going to be a good game of football between Atalanta and Real Madrid.”
Indeed, Zidane’s main concern will be the starting XI he draws from an injury-ravaged squad.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 23, 2021
Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard head the list of absentees, while five players in their 19-man travelling party have not started a competitive game this season.
“We knew from the start of the season this was going to be a very difficult season – for every team, not just for us,” Zidane said.
“We just have to concentrate on our own play, on who we are, on what we have been doing lately and nothing more than that. We’ve prepared the game very well.
“With the difficulties we are going to have, because we’re facing a very good side, we will just try to win the game, as always.”
He added: “You’re telling me about these injuries, but we still have a lot of good players, the players that are here.
“We always step onto the pitch and try to win the game. We never go out to draw. We’re never going to be happy with a draw.”