Zidane goes back to formula that helped Madrid succeed

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              Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane sits at the bench during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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MADRID (AP) — After an up-and-down start to the season, coach Zinedine Zidane is going back to the formula that helped Real Madrid succeed when he first took over three years ago.

Zidane is looking to his “B” team to try to keep Madrid in contention in all competitions, resorting to youngsters and players not often used in the main squad.

It was the same strategy he used in his first season at the helm in 2016, when Madrid won both the Spanish league and the Champions League.

“I have great faith in my squad,” said Zidane, who returned to the club in March. “I’ve got 25 really good players and they have shown how good they are. When they get the chance to play, they have to be ready and have to play well.”

Zidane used just three regular starters on Wednesday in the 2-0 win against Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the Spanish league. Only defender Sergio Ramos and midfielders Casemiro and Toni Kroos were not rested. Even goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stayed out of the starting lineup as Zidane looked to have his regular starters ready for Saturday’s derby at Atlético Madrid.

“We did a lot of good things in this game, I’m thrilled about that,” Zidane said. “We made some changes but those who played showed that they are ready.”

Brazilian teenagers Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo scored against Osasuna, which left Madrid top of the league ahead of the city derby at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

“Zidane knows he can trust all of his players for the entire season,” said the 18-year-old Rodrygo, who made his debut with Madrid’s main squad.

Madrid is unbeaten in the league but opened its Champions League campaign with a 3-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain. It hosts Club Brugge three days after the game against Atlético, when Zidane is going back to his main squad that features Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale.

OPTIMISTIC GRIEZMANN

Antoine Griezmann admits he is far from his best since joining Barcelona but is confident he will keep improving.

“It’s different, it’s a different type of football,” the former Atlético Madrid forward said after his team’s 2-1 win against Villarreal in the Spanish league on Tuesday. “I’m playing in a different position. I knew it was going to be difficult for me, but also that I would keep improving match after match.”

Griezmann has scored three goals in seven games since joining Barcelona this summer after five seasons with Atlético. His best performance came in the 5-2 win against Real Betis in the Spanish league last month, when he scored twice.

“It’s not too bad,” Griezmann said. “I can do better, but I’ve just arrived. I’m on the right track and will keep working to help my teammates. And if I can keep scoring, even better.”

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