MADRID-Zinedine Zidane has told Liverpool his Real Madrid team are hungrier than ever to win the Champions League, despite clinching the title in three of the last four years.

Real are gunning for an unprecedented third consecutive success in the competition on Saturday while Liverpool have reached the final for the first time since 2007.  "No one can tell us we are less hungry," Zidane said. "I can't speak for our opponents but we want to stress we will always have the same motivation, the same as always, no one can tell us we are less hungry than the rest. We are Madrid and despite what we have, we always want more, and we will give everything to get even better."

Real's experience at the deep end of the Champions League dwarfs that of this Liverpool team, who do not have a single player to have made it this far before.

Zidane also has his own personal achievements to draw upon, having won the most coveted prize in club football three times as a player and manager combined. "It's true I lived 18 years as a player inside the changing room, with many coaches, with many players, with just as much ego as me," Zidane said.

"I know the changing room and I know the mind of a player and that is an important thing for me, but it is not the only thing. I am not the best tactician, but I have other things - passion, motivation - and those are worth much more."  Some have billed this weekend's showdown as a contest between Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah but when asked if he would swap Ronaldo for the Liverpool forward, Zidane simply replied: "No."

On Ronaldo's influence on the final, Zidane said: "The most possible. He is the best so it will be the maximum." Zidane would offer no clues as to his starting line-up in Kiev but he did ackowledge the excellent form of Gareth Bale, who has scored five goals in his last four starts.  "He is playing very well, he has scored many goals recently," Zidane said. "Not only that but he has been very consistent. He has not played so much, but the last three games he has played he has played well."

Bale can make difference

Wales manager Ryan Giggs has warned Liverpool that Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale can make the difference in the Champions League final.

Bale is not certain to start Saturday's showdown in Kiev, despite scoring five goals in four La Liga games for the reigning European champions. But Wales manager Giggs said the 28-year-old has the right mindset to make a decisive contribution from the bench, if that is the role given to him by manager Zinedine Zidane.

"Every time Gareth plays he makes an impact," said Giggs. "It just shows the professional he is that he's not sulking (when he's a substitute) as he always seems to come on and score.

"He's one of the best players in the world and every time he comes on to that pitch he makes a difference. Again that's a credit to his professionalism, his hunger and desire to get in the team for that final."

A 13th European title for Real on Saturday would see Bale equal the record of Champions League wins, or its European Cup predecessor, by a British player. Former Liverpool defender Phil Neal currently holds the record outright with four victories and Bale would match that tally after five seasons in Madrid.

And despite having his critics in Spain, Bale has still managed to score 19 goals this season in an injury-hit campaign. "Gareth always had potential, but he's gone on to pass that potential," Giggs said. "He's been playing at a top club for a long time where brilliant players have notoriously not lasted very long.

"He has been a huge success for club and country and one of the best British players to have gone abroad because of what he's achieved."

But Giggs, as Manchester United's record appearances holder, admits it is hard to see Liverpool just 90 minutes away from being crowned European champions. "As a United fan, and playing for United for so long, it is difficult," Giggs added. "They are our main rivals for a reason -- they've got great history, they're a brilliant club and it's hard for a United fan to take.

"When I was playing you didn't want rivals to go and win European Cups. But in those situations you just have to look after yourselves and try and win things."

 

 

 

 

Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane (C) attends a training session during Real Madrid's Media Open Day ahead of their UEFA Champions league final.–AFP