Zidane rules out Real guard of honour for Barcelona

Zinedine Zidane

MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday his side will not offer runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona a guard of honour before the ‘Clasico’ next month if the Catalans are crowned champions before then.

Barcelona famously formed a guard of honour in May 2008 for newly confirmed champions Real at the Santiago Bernabeu but they refused to repeat the gesture before their last Liga meeting on Dec. 23, days after Madrid had lifted the FIFA Club World Cup.

“Soon I’m going to be asked about this and my answer is very clear. It’s my decision and it’s final. I don’t understand the concept of the guard of honour and so we aren’t going to do it. Barca broke with the tradition,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of the Madrid derby against Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Barca’s head of institutional relations Guillermo Amor said in December that his club had declined to repeat the guard of honour for Real as they had not participated in the Club World Cup.

Barca lead the Liga standings by nine points over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid and are 13 ahead of third-placed Real with seven games remaining.

If Real beat Atletico in Sunday’s Madrid derby and Barca win their next four fixtures, Ernesto Valverde’s side will have clinched a 25th title by the time of the Clasico on May 6 at the Nou Camp.

Zidane, however, said his side were not worried about the fact that a victory over their city rivals would bring historical rivals Barca closer to winning the league, and were instead focusing on unseating Atletico in second.

“We’re not thinking about Barca’s path to the title, we’re just concentrating on tomorrow’s game and thinking about the three points as we want to keep accumulating points,” Zidane added.

“Atletico deserve to be where they are, they’re second and all we can do is try and reduce the distance between them and us.”

Both sides go into the game high on confidence, with Real thrashing Juventus 3-0 in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday and Atletico beating Sporting Lisbon 2-0 and taking a big step towards reaching the Europa League semi-finals.

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