Real Madrid focused on Club World Cup as Barcelona clash looms large

Matt Jones - Editor 23:17 12/12/2017
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Zinedine Zidane and Marcelo insist the looming Clasico with Barcelona is far from their minds as Real Madrid go in search of a Club World Cup triumph that would move them alongside their bitter La Liga rivals as the most successful sides in the tournament’s history.

The Blaugrana stand alone with three victories in the competition’s 13-year history – lifting the trophy in 2009, 2011 and 2015.

Real are reigning champions, having beaten Japan’s Kashima Antlers on penalties in Yokohama a year ago, winning their first Club World Cup in 2014.

And while Los Blancos host Barca in a real Christmas Clasico classic in their next league game on December 23, both coach Zidane and left-back Marcelo are fully focused on retaining their world title and the semi-final clash with UAE champions Al Jazira in the capital tonight.

“We have to try and win the title and we are here for that. We think only of this competition and that is it,” said the Frenchman when asked in yesterday’s press conference at Zayed Sports City Stadium how he was preparing for the first Clasico of the season.

“It’s another competition that we want to do our best in. We know it’s not going to be easy. We have a semi-final and we want to pass it.

“We are here, relaxing and training and thinking about tomorrow’s match, and nothing about La Liga or our many other games. We will think about tomorrow and then the final if we win, and then think about playing Barcelona.”

Marcelo 1

Brazilian defender Marcelo similarly responded when quizzed asked about a mouthwatering Champions League tie Madrid face with French giants Paris Saint-Germain in the new year.

“They will be two wonderful matches and I have lots of friends there, but at the moment our minds are here,” said the 29-year-old.

“We are not talking about future matches. We are concentrating on the Club World Cup and we want to win the semi-final and reach the final.”

Zidane, though, will be forgiven for pondering the prospect of his team selection for the Barca game, with suspensions carrying over should any of his players get sent off tonight, and again if they make Saturday’s final.

But the former Madrid midfielder insisted he will take no special precautions with the likes of his big name stars, like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale.

“It could be something that could happen,” he admitted. “The players are playing well and deserve to play in different competitions. I think it will be hard but I don’t think anything will happen because I think in a positive manner. It could be strange but we accept it.”

His comments were echoed by Marcelo, who said: “It doesn’t influence us, we will play like we always play.

“First we have the semi-final, which will be difficult. To play this tournament is a prize, we are the champions. You can be sent off in any league so it doesn’t affect us. We are to play and we are not going to change anything.”

Zidane says he has brought a fully-fit squad of 21 players with him to the Emirates. And even though Real are heavy favourites to make the final, he knows the Pride of Abu Dhabi will raise their game for what is the biggest game in their history.

“Before I didn’t know them but now I know them much better,” said Zidane, who has been buoyed by the welcome they have had since arriving on Monday.

“I’m very happy about the city and welcoming. It’s nice to see people supporting Real Madrid.

“They’re (Jazira) going to do their best and take their chances playing against us. It’s the match of the year for them to play Real Madrid, so we think it will be a challenging match.

“We know there is not any match that is easy. We have a match against an opponent everyone says will be an easy match. We don’t think that, we think it will be hard.

Real Madrid 2

“Whenever you play in a competition, everyone wants to do their best because it is Real Madrid. Anything can happen in football, so we have to be very concentrated and well prepared.

“We are looking for a title and we want to defend the title we won last year. For that we have come here, it has been a long trip, it’s a competition we want to win, we want to go back with the trophy.”

Rio de Janeiro native Marcelo has won 17 major honours with Los Blancos, including being a member of the two previous Club World Cup-winning squads. And he says he is as motivated as ever to win a third titles and 18th for the club overall.

“We believe that all the titles we fight for is the most important thing,” he said.

“I’m very proud to have won all of these titles with Real Madrid and this is another motivation I have, to continue fighting. This tournament is very important for us. We have to fight for all the titles and we will go for it, to reach the final.”

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