‘They have Messi, but we have our weapons’, roars Zidane
Zinedine Zidane was in a bullish mood ahead of Real Madrid’s trip to Barcelona for the Clasico, as he insisted his side have ‘weapons’ to dismantle their rivals.
Wednesday night’s match was initially scheduled to take place at the end of October but it fell foul to political demonstrations in Barcelona at the time.
Now the game is set to go ahead and although he admitted the threat of Barcelona’s star man, Zidane was confident his team have what it takes to win the clash.
‘We know that we face a great team and that they have Messi, but we also have our weapons,’ he said in his pre-match press conference.
‘Going to the Clasico together is something ... different. I remember when I was a player. You live for this kind of matches.
‘I’m not worried about the Clasico. I’m happy to be able to play a game like that. There’s a lot of talk ... but what people want to see tomorrow is a good game.’
In a surprising twist of events, the two sets of players will travel together to the stadium, despite the on-field rivalry.
Reacting to the news, Zidane said: ‘They told us that we have to go to the stadium together [with Barcelona] and that is what we will do. The rules are the rules.
Meanwhile, Zidane and Ernesto Valverde might have been fearing for their jobs if they had lost a Clasico back in October but its postponement means that they can now face each other feeling more secure.
Stalling in the autumn, Real Madrid and Barcelona have rolled through the gears in the lead-up to Christmas, meaning the winner of Wednesday’s crunch meeting at Camp Nou will move seven points clear of third place.
More importantly, in what increasingly looks like a two-pronged title chase, the winner will pull three ahead of the loser, with one round Liga matches left before the two-week winter break.
Yet even for the loser, providing defeat is not a humiliation, the consequences will not be so grave.
The gap in the table will be small and considering where both these teams were only a few weeks ago, when every week brought a new name linked with coaching jobs and every goal conceded planted another seed of doubt.
For Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho was out of work and in the public eye, his increasingly frequent media showings even appearing to irk the usually immoveable Zidane.
“Football forgets what you’ve done in the past,” said Zidane in October.
“I’m not going to tell you what they say doesn’t bother me because it bothers me, but I can’t prevent people giving their opinions.”
For Barcelona, Ronald Koeman had surged into view after the Dutch Federation confirmed a clause in his contract that allows him to join Barca after Euro 2020 next summer.
But if the rumours were an irritation, form on the pitch was a real concern.
Barcelona’s malaise was short-lived. They won only two of their opening five games. Results improved but performances were ponderous and the weaknesses all-too familiar, the kind that had also gone unfixed before, only to prove costly later in the season.
In that sense, Valverde was carrying the weight of previous disappointments and he was blamed for a leaky defence, lack of style and failure to get the best out of Antoine Griezmann. -Dailymail