Zidane ignores Pique distractions for title run-in

Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane refused to rise to Barcelona defender Gerard Pique’s bait ahead of his side’s return to action at home to Alaves on Saturday.

Pique dominated headlines in Spain over the past week by launching an attack on Madrid’s “values”.

The Spanish international cited tax fraud cases against Barcelona teammates Neymar and Lionel Messi and claimed that Real had “pulled strings” to avoid punishment for their players in similar circumstances.

However, Zidane insisted Madrid can’t play into Barca’s hands by being distracted whilst in pole position for a first La Liga title in five years.

“This is a very big and serious club and we are only thinking about the game tomorrow,” said Zidane.

“We have nine games in 28 days. That means we will need everyone and we are prepared for the run-in.”

Real lead Barca by two points at the top of La Liga and have a game in hand with 11 matches to play.

After their verbal jousting whilst on international duty with Spain neither Pique nor Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will be in action this weekend with both rested.

“It is my decision. He has played a lot and tomorrow he will rest,” added Zidane.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Marcelo and James Rodriguez have also been left out by Zidane after their cross-Atlantic exertions in World Cup qualifying over the past week. 

However, Real are boosted at centre-back by the return from injury of Raphael Varane.

Defensive midfielder Casemiro misses out due to suspension, but Alaves are also missing the heartbeat of their midfield as Marcos Llorente can’t feature as part of his loan deal from Madrid.

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