Lopetegui hails Bale as Madrid look towards post-Ronaldo era

Reuters , Tuesday 14 Aug 2018

Soccer Football - UEFA Super Cup - Real Madrid Training - Lillekula Stadium, Tallinn, Estonia - August 14, 2018 Real Madrid's Gareth Bale during training REUTERS

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui praised Gareth Bale and is confident the Welsh forward will fill the void left by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.

Prolific striker Ronaldo moved to Juventus in July and Madrid have not signed a replacement, with the onus on Bale to become the team's key figure after he struck twice in the Champions League final win over Liverpool.

"We love that (Bale) is with us. He is so motivated with a lot of hope and he's been working well since the beginning of the season," Lopetegui told reporters on the eve of Real's UEFA Super Cup showdown with Europa League holders and city rivals Atletico Madrid in Tallinn.

"We're delighted with his attitude and his desire, he's an ultra professional who is training with the desire of a youth teamer. We are convinced he will have a great season."

Lopetegui said he had already decided whether new signing Thibaut Courtois or stalwart Keylor Navas would start in goal on Wednesday but he declined to reveal his plans.

The former Spain coach will be in charge of Madrid for the first time in an official match. Zinedine Zidane quit at the end of last season after securing his third successive Champions League triumph.

"Zidane did extraordinary work with incredible success but that is the past," added Lopetegui.

"We will not look back but forward with confidence and hard work to consolidate our successes."

Atletico coach Diego Simeone is convinced emotion will be a key factor in the game.

Simeone is suspended from the touchline for the match after being sent off in the Europa League semi-final against Arsenal.

"The important thing is the emotion, the hope. This game could be decided on an emotional level," the Argentine coach said.

Atletico retained key man Antoine Griezmann despite interest from Barcelona in the summer and added several more players to their squad, including Gelson Martins, Thomas Lemar and Santiago Arias.

However, Simeone said it does not mean his team were ready to compete for trophies against La Liga giants Real and Barcelona.

"The arrival of good players guarantees good individuals but not a better team until we are all working in the same direction," added Simeone.

"Obviously our budgets are not the same. But in terms of motivation we never feel beneath anyone. In this match we will do everything we can to take the game where we want it." 

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