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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane says he is not worried that Wednesday's rearranged clasico against Barcelona could be overshadowed by Catalan independence protests.
Originally slated for October 26, Spain's most anticipated match was postponed due to civil unrest which included the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders.
There are renewed fears of unrest at Camp Nou, where Madrid and Barca will be playing for first place in La Liga.
"I am not worried about anything," Zidane said in a press conference in Madrid.
"I am happy we are about to play a clasico. It was the same when I was a player; these are the matches you live for, and you are focused only on what happens on the field."
Democratic Tsunami, the protest group in favour of Catalan independence, has called publicly for its supporters to gather at the stadium four hours before kick off, slated for 11pm UAE.
A large-scale safety operation will be deployed around the match involving 3,000 security personnel while both teams have been instructed to travel to the stadium from the same hotel.
"We have been told to travel together and that's what we will do," Zidane said.
"I don't know if that is giving in [to the protesters]. It's something different and we just have to follow the rules. We don't need to do any more explaining. The important thing is that the game is going ahead and that's that."
Authorities have promised the game will go ahead and Democratic Tsunami, which says 25,000 people will attend the protest, say they do not want to disrupt the match and only wish to call for dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities.
Zidane added: "We never thought this game would not go ahead. What we have to do is put all our energy into the match because the rest, we could spend a week talking about it."
Despite the emphasis on security ahead of the game, Zidane said he is only worried about the match, which is perfectly poised: champions Barca lead the standings but are locked on 35 points with second-placed Real.
Both teams have found form in recent weeks, in part due to the excellent form of their strikers. Madrid's Karim Benzema has nine goals in his last eight games while Lionel Messi has scored 14 in 12.
"We know we are facing a very good team, we know the player they have in Messi, but we also have our weapons," Zidane said.
Eden Hazard, Marcelo, James Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio will all miss the match through injury. Gareth Bale is fit again but has not started since Madrid's win over Alaves on November 30.
"Bale is with us, he is training well," Zidane said. "He is an important player and tomorrow, he will be prepared like everyone else."
Updated: December 17, 2019 05:16 PM
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