Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insists that the race for the La Liga title is far from over regardless of the result of Saturday’s El Clasico result against Barcelona.
Los Blancos head into the match at the Santiago Bernabeu trailing their great rivals by 11 points, although they have played a game fewer and a victory coupled with a win in their game in hand would bring Madrid to within five points of Barca, but history does not bode well for Zidane’s side.
No team has ever recovered from a deficit of 10 points or more and gone on to win LaLiga, meaning the odds are well in favour of Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Zidane is refusing to give up hope of finishing top of the pile, though, insisting that even if Barca win to go 14 points clear, Madrid have plenty of time left.
When asked if a Barca victory would spell an end to the title race, Zidane said on Friday: “No, whatever happens tomorrow we will keep working and keep thinking.
“There’s still a long way to go and tomorrow is just three points. We know we have to play well, but it won’t change anything, whatever happens.
“I’m sure it’ll be the most difficult game of season, Barca-Madrid games always are. They’re great, but they’re always difficult.
“We like that. That’s why the players go out – we want these games. You know that to win the league, although it’s not just down to these games, Clasicos are very important for winning the league and the players always think about this sort of thing.”
The Frenchman was not interested in discussing suggestions that Barca should give Madrid a guard of honour for their Club World Cup victory.
“I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t interest me,” he added. “All that interests me is the game, that’s all I’m talking about.
“I’m not alone, all the players and everyone here [at the club] – all we are bothered about is the game.”
One aspect of Madrid’s season which rarely appeared last term was jeering from the home support, and although it has generally been restricted to certain sections of the crowd, it has highlighted the significant contrast in the team’s fortunes.
And Zidane urged all supporters to remain patient because they “really need them behind us”, something Karim Benzema – who has been targeted by fans more than most – will likely be relieved to hear.
“I don’t normally try to send messages, but as you’ve asked me, I’ll tell you that the fans help us and now is the moment we really need them behind us,” said Zidane.
“They always are, but tomorrow we really need them. We won’t win in first 10 minutes, we need to be patient, take our time and we can win this game. We need the fans from first to last minute.”