El Clasico: These are matches you live for, says Zinedine Zidane
Real boss insists team are focussed on football amid fear of protests ahead of high-voltage Barca tie
Madrid: Zinedine Zidane has said he is not worried about tonight's Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona being overshadowed by Catalan independence protests. The fixture was originally scheduled for October 26 but had to be postponed and there are renewed fears of unrest at Camp Nou, where Madrid and Barca will be playing for first place in La Liga. "I am not worried about anything," said Zidane in a press conference on Tuesday. "I am happy we are about to play a Clasico. It was the same when I was a player, these are the matches you live for, and you are focused only on what happens on the field."
Democratic Tsunami, the protest group in favour of Catalan independence, has called publicly for its supporters to gather at the stadium four hours before kick off. A large-scale safety operation will be deployed around the match involving 3,000 security personnel while both teams have been instructed to travel to the stadium from the same hotel.
"It's something different but the rules are the rules," said Zidane. "They said we have to leave together so we're leaving together." Zidane added: "We never thought this game would not go ahead. What we have to do is put all our energy into the match because the rest, we could spend a week talking about it." Barcelona and Real Madrid sit first and second in La Liga and level on points, with Barca only ahead on goal difference.
Both teams have found form in recent weeks, in part due to the excellent form of their strikers. Madrid's Karim Benzema has nine goals in his last eight games while Lionel Messi has scored 14 in 12. "We know we are facing a very good team, we know the player they have in Messi, but we also have our weapons," Zidane said. Eden Hazard, Marcelo, James Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio will all miss the match through injury. Gareth Bale is fit again but has not started since Madrid's win over Alaves on November 30.
"Bale is with us, he is training well," Zidane said. "He is an important player and tomorrow, he will be prepared like everyone else."
No. of goals Barcelona's superstar Lionel Messi has scored in El Clasicos
No. of times Barcelona were unbeaten against Real Madrid in as many meetings
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