Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and his Chelsea counterpart Thomas Tuchel played down the furore over the breakaway European Super League (ESL) as they fine-tuned their teams for their Champions League semi-final clash on Tuesday night in Spain.
Madrid and Chelsea emerged nine days ago as two of the 12 founding clubs of the 20-team tournament that was planned to upstage the midweek fixtures of the Champions League.
European football’s ruling body, Uefa, which runs the Champions League, threatened sanctions on clubs and players who took part in the ESL.
Fifa, the world game’s governing body said players might be banned from competing for their countries in Fifa competitions such as the World Cup.
In England, footballing authorities told Chelsea’s officials the club faced the prospect of being thrown out of the Premier League.
While the Londoners have said they will not take part in the ESL, Madrid have yet to renounce their participation.
Owner Florentino Perez has countered that the nine teams who have so far pulled out are contractually obliged to carry on with the ESL project.
“A lot has been said but all we can do is focus on the game against Chelsea,” said Zidane. “We’re not in control of the rest so there’s always going to be talk.”
Madrid go into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw with Real Betis that left them two points off La Liga pacesetters Atletico Madrid with five games remaining.
Chelsea’s aspirations seem rather more prosaic. They are seeking a finish in the top four in England to qualify for the 2021/22 Champions League.
Tuchel, who took over in January after the sacking of Frank Lampard, said: “Chelsea are not in the semi-finals because of political decisions or because of our logo, we deserve it because we have come a long way.
“I had the luck to be part of it since the knockout phase and we have fought our way through with results. If problems exist on a sports political level, it has to be sorted on that level.”
Chelsea have not reached the semi-finals since 2014. They were eliminated by Atletico Madrid who went on to lose in the final to Real who were led at the time by Carlo Ancelotti.
It was the 10th time the Spanish giants had hoisted European club football’s most prestigious trophy.
Under Zidane, Madrid have added three more crowns. Either they or Chelsea will face Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City in the final in Istanbul on 29 May.
Source: Modern Ghana