Zidane ‘completely relaxed’ for Clasico


Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane says there is no added pressure on him or his players before Saturday’s El Clasico with Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Leaders Barcelona are 10 points clear of their fierce rivals and closing in on a third title in four seasons.

Real, last crowned champions of Spain in 2012, are third in the table with eight games left.

“I’m completely relaxed. This is a game of football – and I am going to enjoy it,” said Zidane on Friday.

Rafael Benitez was in charge of Real when Barcelona won 4-0 at the Bernabeu on 21 November, a result that proved the beginning of the end for the former Liverpool boss, who was sacked in January after just seven months in charge.

“I’ll have no problems at all sleeping tonight,” added Zidane, before his first El Clasico in charge.

“It’s a game of football and we’re in a good dynamic.”

Zidane has a near full-strength side to pick from, although defender Raphael Varane missed training on Friday after being injured on international duty with France.

Real’s last serious chance of winning silverware this season is in the Champions League.

They fly to Germany to play Wolfsburg in the first leg of their quarter-final tie next Wednesday but Zidane, a European Cup winner with Real in 2002, will not be rotating his squad.

“For me, the most important game is Saturday’s game,” added the 43-year-old.

Barcelona ‘crazy’ for El Clasico

Barcelona head into El Clasico on a 39-game unbeaten run stretching back to October and, according to boss Luis Enrique, are “crazy” about winning what many consider the biggest game in club football.

“We’re playing to stay as leaders and take a giant step in the league, regardless of the points difference,” added Enrique.

“It doesn’t matter how many points behind Real Madrid might be, we are still two of the best teams on the planet.

“I expect a fiery Nou Camp and that the fans are at their highest level, against their biggest, eternal rivals.

“I’ve noticed speaking to the players that they’re crazy about winning.”

Barcelona, who can finish the season with five trophies, are also in Champions League quarter-final action next week when they host league rivals Atletico Madrid on 5 April.

Enrique, like Zidane, will not be rotating his squad, with forwards Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all expected to start.

Messi out of this world

Messi is one goal short of 500 in his career and Enrique has described the Argentina forward’s strike rate as “from another galaxy” as he looks to reach a new milestone against Real.

Messi’s penalty against Bolivia in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier took him to 499 goals for club and country.

“The figure is from another galaxy,” added Enrique. “If you add the goals of all our other players, including the ones I have scored, you don’t even get close to it.

“But I’ve seen Messi’s face and he and his team-mates are desperate to win the game and give joy to our supporters.”

Johan Cruyff tribute

Barcelona’s players will wear shirts with the message “Gracies Johan” – thank you Johan – for their first match since former player and manager Johan Cruyff died of cancer aged 68.

A mosaic displaying the same message and involving more than 90,000 fans will also be on display before kick-off in honour of the man who coached Barca to their first European Cup triumph in 1992.

Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles – 1991 to 1994 – under Cruyff, who remained influential at the club after his sacking in 1995.

“Johan, more than tributes, would want us to win the game playing good football,” added Enrique.