Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has defended the decision for his players not to form a guard of honour for LaLiga champions Barcelona in Sunday’s Clasico at the Nou Camp.
Ernesto Valverde’s Barca clinched the title last weekend with a 4-2 victory at Deportivo La Coruna, and are four games away from going through the entire league campaign unbeaten.
But there will be no guard of honour on Sunday evening, with Zidane irked that the Catalan club did not see his side out onto the pitch after their Club World Cup triumph in December.
“They did not do it (for us) and we, with respect, are not going to do it because they did not do it,” Zidane said on Saturday at his pre-match press conference, quoted on his club’s website. “We respect what Barcelona did, which is to win the league and is the most difficult thing for me, as I have always said. I congratulate them, and this is respect.
“I will clarify the subject. I’m not the one to decide that the guard of honour is not made. After the Club World Cup, I understand that for them it was not important to make it (for us). Some say they were not in the competition, but you have to win the Champions League to play the Club World Cup, and we are all in the Champions League.”
The deposed champions head to Barcelona 15 points adrift of their hosts and amid reports they may rest the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos with one eye on their Champions League final date with Liverpool later this month, but Zidane insists there will be no lack of motivation from the visitors.
“You do not have to think about the injuries, and have to play the match with intensity, which is the best way to prepare for the final,” said the Frenchman, whose side sit third but still have second-placed Atletico Madrid in their sights.
“It is true that this year LaLiga is decided and there is less expectation, but that is normal. Before the game it will be like that, but when it starts I do not think there will be little expectation.
“We have four games (left in the league) and we will prepare in the best way because we have to finish as high as possible.
“It’s one more match, but against Barcelona, there’s more motivation. Lately the results have been good there, but things can change. We want to have a good game and try to win.”