Don't mind the gap, Zidane tells Real

Dec 22, 2017 - 1:54 PM Zinedine Zidane is sending a simple message to his Real Madrid players ahead of their La Liga clash against Barcelona.

Don't mind the gap.

Madrid trail Barcelona by 11 points with a game in hand before the Clasico. They also have Atletico Madrid and Valencia to overtake before they can challenge for the title.

That means anything but a victory would put their Spanish league title defense in severe jeopardy before the season reaches its midway point.

But Zidane only wants his players to focus on the upcoming 90 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

"We aren't nervous. We have to think about playing a good match, not if we are 11, or eight, or 25 points behind," Zidane said Friday. "We are going to have to play a good match against a very good rival."

Zidane said that whatever the result, his team would keep fighting for the title but he acknowledged the importance of the game.

"It is without doubt our most difficult match of the season because the games between Madrid and Barca are always beautiful, yet difficult," the former Madrid midfielder said.

"But that is what inspires us. Players live to play games like this one. You are always thinking of this date."

Zidane also said Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are at full fitness for the Clasico.

Ronaldo trained with the rest of the squad for the first time this week on the eve of the derby after suffering a knock during the Club World Cup triumph against Gremio last weekend, while Bale has not started a match since September due to injury.

"Cristiano trained today, he's 100 per cent," said Zidane. "He's only thinking about the game tomorrow and so are we.

"I'm not going to tell you anything (about Bale starting the game), the team is up to me and tomorrow we will find out."

The Frenchman also said talks of a new contract for Ronaldo could wait until after the winter break.

"I'm not going to go into everything before the game tomorrow, that is not the issue," Zidane said. "What Cristiano has to think about is the match. It's the same for everyone.

"What I think is that Cristiano, what he has done and what he is doing, deserves all of the club's respect, but only after the winter break will we talk about it."

Ronaldo was reported during the summer to be eyeing a return to England after an investigation in Spain into his tax returns.

Source: AAP

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