UEFA Champions League Zidane expects tough tests for champions Madrid

Opponents will be motivated to dethrone Real Madrid as European champions, says Zinedine Zidane ahead of taking on Sporting CP.

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Zinedine Zidane refused to label his side as favourites as Real Madrid prepare to defend their Champions League crown.

A penalty shootout win over city rivals Atletico in Milan gave Madrid their 11th European title in May.

They return to continental action against Sporting CP at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday but Zidane feels last season will do little to enhance his team's chances of glory, while furnishing opponents with extra motivation.

"I wouldn't say we are favourites," the French World Cup-winner told a pre-match news conference. "There are a lot of teams who can win it. You have to compete, you have to play. We are ready and we have a tough game against a good footballing side who will turn up looking to put in a good performance.

"Being in the Champions League comes with the job. The players know the objective out on the pitch is to always win.

"If we're taking part in a game it is to win. It's to advance, to go further, to improve.

"We know it's not meant to be easy. In fact, it will be harder than last season because whenever you go to play at a stadium against any team you are the defending champions. I think every single game will be tough, starting with Wednesday night's fixture."

No team has retained the Champions League since the tournament rebranded and switched to a group-stage format and Zidane feels a weight of expectation has played a part in this peculiarity.

"After you've won a title, people expect more from you," he said. "They expect you to win again.

"Every game is harder because demands are greater and we expect a very complicated game [against Sporting].

"The secret to success is to work hard every day, be ready."

Zidane added: "I know I've got a great team, a great squad, great players and if we all work a bit more each day I'm sure we'll have a greater chance of accomplishing all our objectives."

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