Real Madrid’s 5-2 hammering of Real Sociedad in Saturday evening’s La Liga clash at the Bernabeu was an ideal warm-up for Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League midweek, according to Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane.
Madrid were in front inside 50 seconds when Lucas Vazquez headed in Cristiano Ronaldo’s deep cross. The goals kept coming as Ronaldo converted Marcelo’s pull-back, Toni Kroos curled to the top corner from 20 yards, and before half-time Ronaldo had made it 4-0 by heading in Luka Modric’s corner.
There was a lull before Real Sociedad substitute Jon Bautista got one back with a quarter hour remaining, Ronaldo completed his 43rd hat trick for the club after Sociedad goalkeeper Gero Rulli had spilled substitute Gareth Bale’s 20 yarder. Ex-Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi volleyed home from close range late on.
The Los Blancos coach told the post-game news conference that the intensity and determination of the first half performance was just what he wanted when PSG visited the Bernabeu for Wednesday’s UCL last-16 first leg.
“Everything positive was what we wanted from the start,” Zidane said.
“It makes things easy when you score in the first minute. It was the full first half in this way, intense, determined, motivated. We can be satisfied with this, the three points, it was a good way to prepare for Wednesday’s game.”
Ronaldo had a difficult time earlier in the season with just four goals in his first 14 La Liga games, but the reigning Ballon D’Or holder now has seven strikes in his last four outings in the competition.
“We are happy for Cristiano’s goals,” said Zidane. “Yesterday I was asked if we are worried that he does not score — today he got three goals.”
Karim Benzema had a less happy evening, again, hitting a post from close-range early on, and then being whistled loudly by his own team’s fans after shooting over from six yards in the game’s final moment.
“The fans come to the stadium and can do what they wish,” said Zidane when asked about the treatment of his fellow Frenchman.
“Karim had chances to score, he didn’t. But the important thing is to think about the next game, and think that someday he will score, and his [bad] run will end.”
On Madrid’s failure to keep a clean sheet, for an eighth straight game, Zidane admitted his team would have to be tighter against PSG on Wednesday given the importance of an away goal in the tie.
“We know that Wednesday is a knockout tie, and a goal away from home … we must correct these things,” he said.
“Over the 90 minutes there were more difficult moments, especially in the second half. But as always I stick to the positive, what we did, the five goals, our start of the game. We know that Wednesday will be different, and with another motivation.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan