Real Madrid turns its focus to Champions league final

AP , Wednesday 24 May 2017

Real Madrid
Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane is tossed in the air by players as they celebrate winning. (AFP)

Real Madrid is done celebrating its Spanish league title and has turned its focus to the Champions League final.

Madrid players are returning to practice on Wednesday, three days after the club won its first league title in five years with a final-round victory at Malaga.

On June 3, it will try to win its third Champions League title in four seasons in the final against Juventus in Cardiff.

It was a busy couple of days for the team after the triumph in La Liga.

The squad returned from Malaga on Sunday and spent the night celebrating with its fans. It was past 3 a.m. local time when players left a major plaza where they were greeted by nearly 50,000 supporters. The next day they met with local authorities and again were hailed by thousands of fans waiting for them at another plaza in the Spanish capital.

''Hopefully we can come back in a couple of weeks with the Champions League trophy,'' captain Sergio Ramos told the crowd.

Now it's back to work as Madrid heads to Cardiff trying to win its first double - the Champions League and Spanish league - in nearly 60 years. It can also become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the competition's new format was created in 1992-93.

''This is why we are here, to win titles,'' midfielder James Rodriguez said. ''Hopefully on June 3 we can add the Champions League trophy to our achievements.''

It would be an amazing feat for coach Zinedine Zidane, who is on the job - his first as a head coach - for only 17 months. The former France great already led the club to titles in La Liga, the Champions League, the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup.

It remains uncertain if the coach will have all of his players in top form in Cardiff, as Gareth Bale and Dani Carvajal are coming off muscle injuries that kept them from playing in the final stages of the Spanish league.

Bale, looking forward to playing a final in his home country, missed both legs of the Champions League semifinals. Carvajal couldn't play in the second leg against Atletico Madrid.

They are both expected to fully recover from their injuries, but there will still be doubts about their overall fitness going into the game in Cardiff.

Francisco ''Isco'' Alarcon has been successfully replacing Bale, and he might get the starting spot regardless of the physical condition of the Wales forward. Danilo has been the option to replace Carvajal at right back.

Central defender Pepe also hasn't played much recently because of an injury and is likely to stay out of the starting lineup in the final.

Certain to play is Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested throughout the season and has been peaking recently. The Portuguese forward scored 14 goals in his last nine matches, including five in the last three league games.

''I feel good and happy to have helped the team in the final games in the league and in the Champions League,'' he said. ''I feel fresh and now I have to help out in the final in Cardiff.''

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