It’s Clásico weekend and Zinedine Zidane spoke to the media on Friday lunchtime, ahead of the Saturday night clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Valdebebas.
Real Madrid are in good form, defeating Eibar 2-0 and Liverpool 3-1 in their two games since the international break. Previewing this blockbuster fixture, Zidane tried to play down the importance by saying: “There are three points in play, just like there were against Eibar. We’ve prepared the same way as we did the other day. We know it’ll be complicated. We know this. But, we’re prepared and we’ve also been able to recover well since the last game. We want to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’re in good form, but we need to keep that up. There’s a lot in play and we’re alive in both competitions.”
Asked about the implications of this match in the title race and if Real Madrid will be out of contention if they lose, the coach replied: “No, and I’m not thinking about that. We’ll see what the consequences are at the end of the game. We’ll try to play a good game of football. Atlético Madrid have a lead. They’re first in the table. But, no matter what happens, we’ll have to compete until the end of the season. It’s a very competitive league, so all these teams have a chance to win. There are still many points left to play for.”
Sergio Ramos is injured and won’t be able to play and Zidane was asked if he thinks the centre-back might have already played his last Clásico. On that, he said: “I hope not. He won’t play tomorrow and that’s a shame, but I hope he stays here. You know that.”
Then, he was asked about Lionel Messi and if he hopes this will be the last Clásico for the Barça captain. But, Zidane also said he’d like the Argentine to stay and play more Clásicos, explaining: “No. He should stay at Barcelona. He’s happy there. It’d also be good for LaLiga.”
Discussing Messi further and the fact that he hasn’t scored or assisted in his past six Clásicos, Zidane said: “We know how good Messi is and that won’t change. He might not be scoring against us, but we still know how good he is. We’re playing against all of Barcelona, where they’re all good players. We’ll try to limit Messi’s strengths, as we always do, and we’ll try to generally have a good game with the ball.”
Eden Hazard was brought up a few times in the press conference, but Zidane was vague when it came to confirming or not if the Belgian will be in the squad. He was even asked if the Belgian national team will have an influence on that decision, but Zidane replied: “It doesn’t depend on Belgium or Real Madrid. It depends on the player’s feeling. There is a recovery process, but then it depends on how the player feels.”
Finally, there was a question about Kylian Mbappé and his potential arrival at Real Madrid. The coach replied: “I know him. We know each other well. But, he’s not my player so I can’t say anything. I can talk about tomorrow’s game. He is a great player and we’ll see what he wants to do in the future, but that’s not my concern right now.”