Zidane knows only winning matters against Barcelona
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 02, 2016 07:50 AM
Real Madrid's headcoach Zinedine Zidane smiles during a press conference in Madrid, Spain Friday April 1, 2016. Real Madrid will play Barcelona Saturday in a Spanish La Liga soccer match, dubbed 'el clasico'. (AP Paul White)MADRID (AP) — Facing his first "clasico," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane knows nothing other than victory at Barcelona will be enough.
The former midfield great replaced Rafa Benitez three months ago, but his star-studded team is virtually out of the Spanish league title race, 10 points adrift of Barcelona in third place.
"I know how things are at this club," Zidane said Friday, a day before he takes his team to Camp Nou. "The important thing is to win, we all know it. I was here as a player. I know the demands that this job comes with."
Zidane has a lot riding on how well his team performs on Saturday following an irregular managing debut that has swung between blowouts of small teams, costly draws on the road, and a disappointing loss to second-place Atletico Madrid at home.
Despite Madrid's best chances at a trophy resting in the Champions League, where it plays German club Wolfsburg on Wednesday in the quarterfinals, Zidane said his team is focused on Saturday's match.
"Maybe the game has a different role, but that won't change anything for us," he said. "We will do our best and start strong. For me the most important game is tomorrow. We will play tomorrow's game and then look toward Wednesday."
Zidane played his last "clasico" 10 years ago, and he said that the clash between the fierce rivals is "the most beautiful game that exists for a player."
"Now I get to experience it as a coach and I am happy for that," he said. "I want to make the most of it and have a great match."
Zidane's challenge, however, is daunting.
Under second-year coach Luis Enrique, Barcelona is on a Spanish record streak of 39 matches without a loss across all competitions. That run has kept the team on course to repeating its rare treble of Spanish league, Champions League and Copa del Rey titles from last season.
Barcelona, which hasn't lost at home to Madrid since 2013, crushed Madrid 4-0 in their first meeting this season, a humiliation that went a long way to the eventual firing of Benitez.
"If we win, we would deal a definitive blow to Madrid and Atletico would be our only rival for the league," Luis Enrique said. "We are leaders because we have earned it and now we only need to finish it off and that's why we need the three points tomorrow."
Much of Luis Enrique's confidence is based on Barcelona's awesome trio of forwards. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have combined for 107 goals in all competitions this season, far ahead of the 80 goals tallied by Madrid players Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
Barcelona also has a Champions League quarterfinal with Atletico looming on Tuesday.
But the Catalan club can find extra motivation in honoring former player and coach Johan Cruyff on Saturday, its first game since the Dutch great died of lung cancer.