“We know it's a delicate moment, with three games without a victory in our stadium,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Saturday. “But these things can happen, we have to stay positive. We will need our fans supporting us from the first minute to the last. I understand why they are upset, but we need them now. And they need us. We need to stick together.”
The loss to Man City was the latest stumble at the Bernabéu. In European matches alone, Madrid has won only three of its last 10 games at the stadium. The team's streak against Barcelona at home also isn't good, with four straight league losses to the rival at the Bernabéu. Madrid's last win at home against the Catalan club was in the 2017 Spanish Super Cup. In the league, Madrid's last home win dates back to 2014. It is winless in seven consecutive games against Barcelona in all venues and competitions.
Madrid also struggled against Barcelona coach Quique Setién recently, with two losses at the Bernabéu when Setién managed Real Betis. Setién tried to downplay his rival's poor run of form, though, saying “Madrid is always dangerous, playing at home or not.” But he added there was more on the line at the “clásico” for Madrid than for Barcelona.
"For Madrid this is a vital game, a lot more than it is for us, for sure,” Setién said. “It’s a key match. If we win we open a five-point lead.” Zidane said “all games are vital for Madrid," and that, even with a loss on Sunday, the race for the league title wouldn't be over.
Setién was at the Bernabéu to watch City's come-from-behind win over Madrid in the Champions League. “We saw how City played against Madrid,” he said. “There are some things that we could use in our favor, others not so much.”
Barcelona was the team struggling early in the year amid an institutional crisis that included a coaching change and conflicts between players and team officials, but it is coming off four straight league wins and a draw at Napoli in the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League.
Zidane will remain without the injured Eden Hazard, while Setién was likely to have Jordi Alba and Gerard Piqué available after injuries. Setién will also count on Lionel Messi, who will be playing in his 43rd “clásico” on Sunday.
“I would love to see Messi play 43 other ‘clásicos,'" Setién said. “He is a very important player and hopefully he will have a great match and help us win.” The two-point gap between Madrid and Barcelona when playing the second league “clásico” of the season is the smallest since 2015.
Madrid's last league game was a loss at Levante, a result that dropped the team behind Barcelona in the standings. “We lost games and that's my responsibility," Zidane said. "It's normal for me to be criticized. But now we have an opportunity to play a great match. We will be playing at home and we will give all we have to win again."
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