Saturday, 2 April 2016

Barcelona v Real Madrid - Preview

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane says there is no added pressure on him or his players before Saturday's El Clasico with Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Leaders Barcelona are 10 points clear of their fierce rivals and closing in on a third title in four seasons.

Real, last crowned champions of Spain in 2012, are third in the table with eight games left.

"I'm completely relaxed. This is a game of football - and I am going to enjoy it," said Zidane on Friday.

Rafael Benitez was in charge of Real when Barcelona won 4-0 at the Bernabeu on 21 November, a result that proved the beginning of the end for the former Liverpool boss, who was sacked in January after just seven months in charge.

"I'll have no problems at all sleeping tonight," added Zidane, before his first El Clasico in charge.

"It's a game of football and we're in a good dynamic."

Zidane has a near full-strength side to pick from, although defender Raphael Varane missed training on Friday after being injured on international duty with France.

Barca's first-choice front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have played more regularly - and been more productive - than Madrid's Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga this season

Real's last serious chance of winning silverware this season is in the Champions League.

They fly to Germany to play Wolfsburg in the first leg of their quarter-final tie next Wednesday but Zidane, a European Cup winner with Real in 2002, will not be rotating his squad.

"For me, the most important game is Saturday's game," added the 43-year-old.

Barcelona head into El Clasico on a 39-game unbeaten run stretching back to October and, according to boss Luis Enrique, are "crazy" about winning what many consider the biggest game in club football.

"We're playing to stay as leaders and take a giant step in the league, regardless of the points difference," added Enrique.

"It doesn't matter how many points behind Real Madrid might be, we are still two of the best teams on the planet.

"I expect a fiery Nou Camp and that the fans are at their highest level, against their biggest, eternal rivals.

"I've noticed speaking to the players that they're crazy about winning."

Barcelona, who can finish the season with five trophies, are also in Champions League quarter-final action next week when they host league rivals Atletico Madrid on 5 April.

Enrique, like Zidane, will not be rotating his squad, with forwards Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all expected to start.

Messi is one goal short of 500 in his career and Enrique has described the Argentina forward's strike rate as "from another galaxy" as he looks to reach a new milestone against Real.

Messi's penalty against Bolivia in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier took him to 499 goals for club and country.

"The figure is from another galaxy," added Enrique. "If you add the goals of all our other players, including the ones I have scored, you don't even get close to it.

But I've seen Messi's face and he and his team-mates are desperate to win the game and give joy to our supporters."

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