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Zidane keeps his cards close to his chest ahead of El Clasico

Closed-door training sessions signify that the build up to the ‘Clásico’ has started in earnest for Real Madrid.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Supercopa de Espana: 2nd Leg Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane is obviously well focussed on Saturday’s fixture and the message from Madrid is that he’s looking for everyone else to be in the same mind.

There’s no doubt that all the players, staff and supporters have already turned their attention to this game but as soon as the training sessions start to become private then you can tell that he means business.

The query at the beginning of the week was over any lingering injury doubts from the FIFA Club World Cup; but Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Rafaël Varane have all trained at some point in the last few days.

Gareth Bale appeared to have come through the CWC games without any proper worries, although obviously his participation was limited as a result of the lengthy period he spent away from the team as a result of his recent injuries.

Sergio Ramos didn’t appear to be any the worse for wear despite some calf muscle pain last week and it was interesting to note that he also completely abandoned wearing the mask for the two games in Abu Dhabi.

Sometimes protective equipment like this can be an irritation up to the point where players spend more time thinking about it rather than just getting on with the game.

Thankfully Rafaël Varane didn’t appear to show any adverse effects either following his recent spell out of the team through injury and he looked comfortable enough when involved in one-to-one races with opposing forwards.

That’s always a good tester anyway; but there’s no doubt that as a sprinter he’ll give most strikers a yard and still be there to sweep up or make the tackle!

Although Luka Modrić has worked on his own quite a bit since returning from the Emirates, Zinedene Zidane has given no indication that the little Croatian will be missing from the line-up when Saturday comes.

Luka has reportedly been spending some additional time in the gym this week along with Karim Benzema and Cristiano, and while all of this has been common knowledge in the past few days, Zidane’s single-mindedness can now be seen to swing into action as preparations step up for Saturday and the release of information is controlled.

Real Madrid aren’t going to want Barça getting hold of any news relevant to team affairs in advance of the ‘Clásico’ nor of any injury concerns in particular.

Of course, the football world is so small anyway that news does travel fast but it’s still better to keep people guessing at this point; and that’s certainly true where injuries are concerned.

As Saturday draws nearer, the attention really does turn towards the ‘Clásico’ and the Arabian adventure has now been brought to a close.

And although it’s great to win trophies, it’s likely that if looking at the Club World Cup through cold, clinical eyes Zinedine Zidane will privately be happy that this competition is now out of the way.

As always with tournaments of this nature, there are two ways of looking at it. One the one hand the additional games that it brings really are matches that Real could do without in the run-up to the Barça fixture.

Many regard the CWC as an unnecessary and unavoidable distraction from the serious business of preparing for one of the most important ‘Clásicos’ in a long time.

On the other hand it could be argued that the club’s success in Abu Dhabi confirms that Real Madrid are indeed the club champions of the world and that this needs to be emphasised!

On that same note, going into the Barça game fresh from the CWC success also provides an important psychological advantage.

It depends entirely on which view you take. But from today onwards, there’s only going to be one focus for Zidane and the team; and that’s the obvious one.

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