It's going to be one of the most important fixtures in the La Liga season as Real Madrid and Barcelona meet in Saturday's El Clasico with the title race heating up. But there are plenty of talking points in the lead up to the big clash and Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has shared his views on a burning topic -- Lionel Messi's future with the Catalan club.
Speaking on the eve of the El Clasico, Zinedine Zidane said he hopes Lionel Messi stays at Barcelona and that it's not going to be his final Clasico.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he hopes that Saturday's Clasico meeting between his side and Barcelona will not be the last time Lionel Messi plays in the fixture. New president Joan Laporta has vowed to keep the Argentinean at the club, but so far no new deal has been agreed.
"I hope it's not (Messi's last Clasico), I want him to stay at Barcelona, it's good for the Spanish league," Zidane said.
"We know what a player he is, but they're a very good team and we'll have to try to stop them playing to their strengths and be as good as we can be on the ball and play as best as we can."
Messi's contract with Barcelona expires at the end of the season and the Argentina superstar hasn't really been happy with how things have progressed at the Catalan club. Having been knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16, nothing less than a league victory would make Messi continue at Barcelona.
I hope he stays here: Zidane on Sergio Ramos
Real's club captain Sergio Ramos is another player whose contract expires at the end of the season, and Zidane reiterated his hope that the 35-year-old has not faced Barca for the final time, either.
"Hopefully he's not played his last Clasico. He won't be fit tomorrow, which is a shame, but I hope he stays here," the French coach said.
Zidane will also be without Raphael Varane, who continues to isolate following a positive COVID-19 test, as well as Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard, who continue to recover from long-standing problems.
Not thinking about losing ground: Zidane
Champions Real currently sit third in La Liga, three points off leaders Atletico and two behind Barca in second place. Defeat would make it very difficult for them to defend their title. However, Zidane insisted they were thinking about nothing but victory.
"I'm not thinking about losing or losing ground," he said.
"We'll see what the situation is at the end of the game; we're going to give our all, we're positive and want to play our best game."