Zidane refuses to give hints on Bale’s final homecoming

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Zinedine Zidane has refused to offer any clues as to whether Gareth Bale will start a Champions League final in his home city.

Bale has declared himself fit for Real Madrid’s showdown with Juventus at the National Stadium of Wales tonight after a calf problem.

The Wales forward has not played since coming off in the first half of El Clasico on April 23, and he admitted he may have rushed his return following an operation in November.

Spanish international Isco shone in Bale’s absence as Real secured their first LaLiga title since 2012, and manager Zidane remained coy on his selection headache at his final pre-match press conference in Cardiff.

“I’m not going to tell you who’s going to play tomorrow,” Zidane said.

“Isco and Bale are two players who can also play together; in the long run, anything can happen.

“When I look at my squad, what’s good is that they’re all ready and willing to play.

“It’s not only mentally, of course, they have to be ready physically too.

“That’s what I’m interested in right now, everyone in good shape and at a high level.”

Real are aiming to become European champions for a record 12th time in Cardiff.

Zidane’s side have scored 169 goals in all competitions this season and possess the current Ballon d’Or holder in Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Zidane insists Real can not be considered favourites against his former club, the Frenchman having spent five years of his playing career in Turin between 1996 and 2001.

“We know all about pressure at Real Madrid,” Zidane said.

“We’re always favourites, but in reality in a final there are no favourites.

“We’re not favourites, nor are Juventus. It’s 50-50. But we’re in the final again, and everything is possible.”

Some observers have suggested Juventus will adopt a cautious approach to blunt Real’s attacking weapons.

But Zidane feels that the repeat of the 1998 final, which Real won 1-0, will be an open and entertaining affair.

“I expect an open game on both sides,” he said.

“I’ve lived and been at Juventus, in Italy there’s the famous Catenaccio, but Juve don’t just have that.

“We’re going to try to play our game; we know we’re going to play against a great team.

“What everyone who likes football wants to see is to see a great final – and I think we will see that.”

Real captain Sergio Ramos was in bullish mood at the prospect of winning a third Champions League in four years.

Ramos scored in both final victories over city rivals Atletico Madrid in 2014 and 2016 and will be a major weapon at set-pieces again.

“It’s another opportunity for us to go out there and show who we are, a great team,” Ramos said.

“We’ve been very solid. Every time we’ve had the chance to fight for a trophy, we’ve done that.

“We’re going to be extremely focused, very concentrated so we make as few mistakes as possible.”

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon knows he cannot let slip this chance to finally fulfil his dream of Champions League glory.

The best shot-stopper of his generation has a medal collection befitting of his standing in the game, but continental glory remains a glaring omission from the veteran’s success-laden CV.

Buffon is the sole survivor of the Juventus side that lost the 2003 final to AC Milan and feared his last chance at Champions League glory had passed by after suffering the same fate against Barcelona two years ago.

But, at the age of 39, the World Cup winner finally has a chance to win the trophy tonight.

“Probably the emotions I might feel might be different to any other guy who is younger than me or any other player like Dani,” Buffon said, sat next to three-time Champions League winner Dani Alves at the pre-match press conference.

“Dani has already won this competition and he has at least four or five years ahead of him in his career. I have to exclude this possibility as far as I am concerned, so, yes, it will be much more special for me.

“But at the same time, I want to play this game without regrets and without thinking of these issues.

“This is my moral imperative for this game and I hope I can manage to do that because our team is very compact and based on collaboration.”