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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane unfazed by Gareth Bale, Isco talk

MADRID -- Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said he will not be affected by media debate about whether Gareth Bale or Isco starts Saturday's Champions League final against Juventus.

Zidane said Wales international Bale was fully fit and motivated to feature in the showpiece game in his home city of Cardiff.

Bale's recent calf muscle problems -- which mean he has not featured since late April -- have seen Isco come into the starting XI and impress in key games, but the former Tottenham star has now returned to full training.

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Zidane told a news conference: "The two players are very important for us, very good players. Everyone can have their own opinions but it will not affect me.

"Gareth and Isco can play together too, as they have done 16 times this season.

"Gareth has had less competition, less minutes, but he is already recovered from his injury. He is ready and with us, and very excited about playing in his home city.

"I know that all the players have such motivation. Isco has shown all season the type of player he is."

Zidane rejected claims that the clash in Cardiff brought together Europe's tightest defence and most dangerous attack, saying: "People say Juve defend better, that we are the best attack, but I do not think like that.

"I don't feel there is much difference between the teams. These are the two best teams going to play the final. It is deserved after a very long season."

Zidane said reports about tax fraud allegations surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo were "something that he doesn't like, that nobody likes, and even more his coach when they are talking about one of his players."

But he added: "Cristiano knows the difference between something people are talking about and what he must focus on doing. I have no doubt he is fully concentrating on this final."

Zinedine Zidane has said Gareth Bale is 'very excited about playing in his home city.'

Zidane played for Juventus between 1996 and 2001, winning two Serie A titles but losing the 1997 and 1998 Champions League finals.

He described the experience of being beaten in the final as "awful, really bad," but said: "It is part of football, and I accept it.

"When I arrived at this club, I still had not won the Champions League, and I did it with this white shirt. Since I arrived at this club in 2001, everyone here has been very nice to me.

"It has been spectacular, as a player, assistant and now coach. I am always going to be a Real Madrid fan, all my life."

James Rodriguez is unlikely to start in Cardiff amid regular speculation linking him with a move away, but Zidane said the Colombia international was "focused on what he has to do."

"A player like James, he would have liked to play more for Real Madrid, for sure, this year," he added.

"That is normal. But as always, in the end I must choose and James has played very well when he got the chance."

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


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