Zinedine Zidane has hailed the depth of his Real Madrid squad after a much-changed side kicked off 2017 by beating Sevilla 3-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey last 16 on Wednesday night (4 January). The French boss subsequently revealed that Cristiano Ronaldo will return for the league match with Granada, after being rested with the likes of Karim Benzema and Isco against Jorge Sampaoli's side.
James Rodriguez made the most of Zidane's rotation policy by scoring two goals, helping Real Madrid take a huge step towards the last eight of the competition. Raphael Varane also chipped in with a header after featuring at the heart of the back-line alongside Nacho, due to the absences of Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
"Some of those who played haven't played as many minutes as others and they did very well. The outcome is not the most important thing, how we prepare for the game is more important. The idea is to have the clear intention of what we have to do out on the pitch. The first 45 minutes were spectacular, physically and technically, an almost perfect match. It's a knockout match and keeping a clear sheet was important," the Real Madrid boss said in the press conference after the game.
"I don't know if it's the best since I arrived, they were 45 very good minutes, good spells of football and intensity. We worked on that and we got it. When you start the game like that and you score, it sets things up for the rest of the game."
Many questioned Zidane's decision to leave Ronaldo out of his squad after the Ballon d'Or returned from his Christmas break. Sevilla are third in La Liga and some suggested it was too much risk to rest him with the likes of Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez already out due to injury.
However, the decision paid off, and Zidane confirmed after the game that Ronaldo will lead his Real Madrid attack in the La Liga clash with Granada.
"I'll not rest him on Saturday. He'll play, and he'll play a lot of games. Don't worry," Zidane said, defending his rotation policy.
"When you play a different player, the important thing is that he gives you something. We had a good game, but we also play well when other players play, different to those who have played today. We have an important group and the players are happy to see their teammates who have played less minutes out on the field. Players were missing due to injuries and we cannot change that. But when others play and do well, the coach is happy.
"I talk to them and tell them that they are all important. Of course there are some players who are more important than others but in the end we'll win with everyone. One player can make a difference, like Cristiano always does, he's a different player. To win everything we want, we are going to need everyone. The season is long and there are a lot of games. We're going to need all of the players."