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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Zinedine Zidane says Real Madrid 'not going to do the guard of honour' if Barcelona win title

Real Madrid will not give Barcelona a guard of honour if the Catalans have clinched the Spanish title before next month's Clasico, manager says

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane speaks to the press ahead of the game against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Rodrigo Jimenez / EPA
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane speaks to the press ahead of the game against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Rodrigo Jimenez / EPA

Real Madrid will not give Barcelona a guard of honour if the Catalans have clinched the Spanish title before next month's Clasico, Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday.

Barcelona lead the Primera Liga by nine points with eight matches left and entertain Real in the penultimate round of the season. In Spain it has become traditional for opponents to form a guard of honour for the champions.

"We're not going to do the guard" Zidane said at a news conference ahead of the Madrid derby against Atletico, who are also Barcelona's closest pursuers.

"It's my decision and that's it," Zidane said. "I don't understand the point of the guard, so we aren't going to do it. Anyway, we are a long way from the end of the season."

Zidane insisted the decision had nothing to do with Barcelona's refusal to form a guard of honour at the Clasico in Madrid in December just after Real had won the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Even so, he acknowledged that Barca had "broken tradition".

There have only been three previous occasions in which a guard of honour has been presented in meetings between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

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The first came in 1988 at Camp Nou, in recognition of Real’s title triumph, before the roles were reversed at the Bernabeu in 1991.

The last was presented by Frank Rijkaard’s Barca in 2008.

Zidane also insisted Gareth Bale was still "an important player", even though the Welsh winger is playing less and remained on the bench in the Uefa Champions League victory at Juventus on Tuesday.

Zidanesaid he expects Bale to remain with the club next season and the player remains a key part of his plans.

He said: "They're all important for me and he'll be an important player until the end of the season. I believe that he'll bring a great deal to the team at particular times, but I've got to make the decisions. All of them always want to play, and all the more so in the case of a player like him. We know what he's capable of and what he has done in the past.

"He'll be here next season, just like the rest of them. I don't believe that it's true that he only features in the less important games. We have many matches, he's a Real Madrid player and is here to stay.

"He's been training and he's not going to let his motivation levels drop off. That's what I'm here for."

Atletico manager Diego Simeone is not expecting the game to be any more intense despite Real wanting to close the gap on his side, which stands at four points.

Simeone told a pre-match press conference: "I have had derbies when we were first, eighth, ninth. But derbies are passionate because the fans experience them all the same way. I don't imagine things being any different."

Atletico are still without centre-back Jose Maria Gimenez who has a bruised foot so Juanfran Torres likely will continue at right-back with Sime Vrsaljko troubled with a hamstring problem.

Defender Nacho will miss out for Real as he has not recovered from a muscle problem suffered against Los Palmas.