Commentary

Will Real Madrid's dance with the Wolves save Zidane?

Leave it to the Barcelona press to play mischievous with Real Madrid ahead of its home leg of the UEFA Champions league quarterfinal series it trails Wolfsburg, 2-0, after the first leg.

Sport reported that Zinedine Zidane, who took over as Real Madrid head coach in January, has a player revolt on his hands after his criticism of his players following the loss in Wolfsburg. Without offering any specifics, the sports daily also reported the players had it had with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, giving him a "message of disgruntlement."

And you wonder why players and coaches on big European clubs are so reluctant to talk with the media?

More serious for Zidane were the reports that his job was in jeopardy in case of an early exit from the Champions League.

The Frenchman was hailed as genius after Real Madrid beat Barcelona, 2-1, in his first Clasico, but four days later the knives were out after the Wolfsburg debacle. The Madrid press was filled with reports that Perez might bring back Jose Mourinho, currently linked to Manchester United, if Zidane doesn't lead Real Madrid past Wolfsburg.

At Monday's UEFA-mandated press conference, Zidane and star Cristiano Ronaldo didn't act like anything was wrong.

''This is a big match," Zidane said, "but you need a cool head to play in it. We are not going to win it in 10 or 15 minutes. We have to score, but we have 90 minutes to do so. We need to be patient.''

All straightforward?

Cristiano Ronaldo was a little more direct.

''It must be a perfect night,'' he said. ''Those of us on the pitch need to run, fight and play with intensity for 90 minutes. Obviously, with the fans helping and supporting us, it will be easier.''

Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking isn't so quick about giving Real Madrid the home-field advantage.

"If tomorrow there are 80,000 Madrid fans we don't care," he said on Monday. "The only important thing is how we play. We know what Real and the Bernabeu mean, of course. We have a lot of respect for them, but I also believe we deserve respect for what we did in the first leg. When you see this set of players it is one of the best teams in the world. We've already proved we can irritate this wonderful team."

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