Madrid (AFP) – The Barcelona squad observed a minute’s silence for their former star Diego Maradona before training on Friday and will continue to lead the mourning in Spain when they do the same before they play Osasuna in La Liga.
Club captain and fellow Argentine Lionel Messi bowed his head on Friday as the team formed a circle in honour of the Maradona who died on Wednesday aged 60.
All La Liga games this weekend will start with a minute’s silence for Maradona who played two seasons for Barcelona from 1982-4. He returned to Spain in 1992 and spent one season at Sevilla.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane praised Maradona at his press conference ahead of a match with Alaves on Saturday, but refused to be drawn on whether the Argentine was the greatest.
“There is lots of discussion about who the best player in the world is but we’ve lost a player who was the absolute,” said the French World Cup winner.
“Others might opt for Cruyff, Messi or Ronaldo. They’re all phenomenal. It’s sad because we’ve lost a guy who was important to football and to the world. Maradona was a unique player.
“Now we’ll show respect for his memory, his family and all those who loved him”.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are struggling to find inspiration in the league.
Barcelona won away to Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday to ensure qualification in the Champions League. The next night Real Madrid won at Inter Milan to improve their chances of advancing after a shaky start.
In La Liga, both are coming off disappointing results.
Barcelona lost away to Atletico Madrid last Saturday to slide to 13th in the 20-team division, 12 points behind leaders Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid lost ground for the second round in a row, drawing 1-1 away to Villarreal. In the last match before the international break, Real lost 4-1 at Valencia. They are fourth, six points off the lead.
Real Sociedad meet third-placed Villarreal who both have the disadvantage of returning from playing away in the Europa League on Thursday.
Second place Atletico Madrid visit Valencia on Saturday.
Asked about Real Madrid’s erratic recent form, Zidane said that “finding consistency is the most difficult thing in football and we work on it”.
Zinedine praised his players for their midweek display in the San Siro in a match Real could not afford to lose.
“It is one more game where we did very well. It was a final. The players were phenomenal,” he said. “But we are judged in each game and we have to continue working with the team and get the best of ourselves.”
“We’ve got another final on Saturday with three hugely important points up for grabs and it’s La Liga. It’s different opposition,” he said. “They’ll make life difficult for us and we want to keep up the good work.
“We want to do against Alaves what we showed as a team against Milan.
“I believe in myself and the players. The players believe in me and the team. If you ask me, we’re a team.”
Zidane said full-back Dani Carvajal will miss the game with a muscle injury. Captain Sergio Ramos, top scorer Karim Benzema and Uruguayan Fede Valverde are all still recovering from their injuries while Serbian striker Luka Jovic is in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.
Fixtures (times 2000 GMT unless specified)
Real Valladolid v Levante
Elche v Cadiz (1300), Valencia v Atletico Madrid (1515) Huesca v Sevilla (1730) Real Madrid v Alaves
Barcelona v Osasuna (1300) Getafe v Athletic Bilbao (1515) Celta Vigo v Granada (1730) Real Sociedad v Villarreal, Real Betis v Eibar
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