Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane has brushed off suggestions Real Madrid could be distracted by the upcoming Clasico when they play in-form Valencia in La Liga on Sunday.
Madrid face a difficult game at Mestalla, just three days before taking on Barcelona at Camp Nou in a match that could decide who goes top of the table.
But Zidane’s team cannot afford to underestimate Valencia, who have registered three consecutive victories, including one away at Ajax on Tuesday that secured qualification for the Champions League last 16 as group winners.
Valencia sit eighth, while Barcelona and Madrid are level on points in first and second respectively.
Asked about the Clasico, Zidane said in a press conference on Saturday: “I’m not thinking about that at all and I include everyone who works here at the club in that.
“Our only concern is tomorrow’s game. The rest may be close but at the same time it’s far away. Tomorrow’s game has all my energy and about Wednesday, I’m not interested.”
After Barcelona, Real Madrid play at home to Athletic Bilbao, to complete a tough week before La Liga’s Christmas break.
Zidane admits it will be “difficult not to rotate” in the three fixtures and it remains to be seen whether Gareth Bale is given some minutes against Valencia, after he was left on the bench against Club Brugge on Wednesday.
Bale has just recovered from a thigh injury sustained earlier this month. “The other day Gareth didn’t play but he is here and I am counting on him,” Zidane said. “The important thing is he is available and ready.”
Zidane also has a dilemna over whether to select Casemiro against Valencia, given the Brazilian will be suspended for the game against Barca if he picks up a yellow card.
Madrid are short of other options in defensive midfield.
“I have to pick a starting line-up thinking only about tomorrow’s game – if I think about Wednesday, that would be a mistake,” said Zidane.
“I always talk with the players because I’m interested in the feelings they all have. And with Casemiro, it’s the same. We know his importance and what he gives to the team.”
Ferland Mendy is banned against Valencia and Marcelo is out with a calf injury, meaning Nacho Fernandez or Eder Militao are likely to fill in at left-back.
James Rodriguez trained alone on Saturday as he continues his recovery from a knee problem and will not be ready this weekend. Eden Hazard (ankle), Lucas Vazquez (toe) and Marco Asensio (cruciate ligament) are all out.
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