Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane
believes that league leaders Barcelona may not last the pace until the
end of the season even if they are outplaying his side at the moment.
"Right now there is a big difference between the two teams and there is
no doubt that Barca are playing much better than us," the Frenchman told
a news conference on Wednesday.
"But last season we were going very well and then fell apart in the last
two months and the same thing could happen to them.
"What's more, they are only using 13 or 14 players and that doesn't help.
We have to be close to them in the table so that we can take advantage
if they slip up."
Barca lead Real by seven points after 13 games, having lost just one
league match this season, but they have been plagued by a series of
serious injuries that have left them short of cover in key positions.
Last season Real led the table for 17 games, but self-destructed in the
run-in, losing six of their last seven matches to finish in fourth place
in the table and without any silverware for the first time in five years.
"It could be us who end up finishing the strongest this time, just like
Barca did last season," said Zidane. "I'm convinced that we'll do
something important this season and end up with a trophy."
The former Juventus player dismissed suggestions that Real's cycle of
success had come to an end.
"I don't think that's the case," he said. "All that can be said is that
we aren't playing as well as we did a year or two ago, but we haven't
finished a cycle.
"There are only two or three players in the squad who are over 32,
others are only 28 or 25 ... In any case I'm the oldest and it isn't
time to get rid of us yet.
"We aren't in the position we would like to be, but we'll finish the
season playing 100 percent. If we don't win something then changes will
have to be made, but I'm convinced we've still got a great team."
Zidane said he was recovering from the back problems that kept him out
of Real's 5-0 win over Levante at the weekend and hoped to be fit for
Sunday's league match at Villarreal and the crunch Champions League game
at AS Roma the following Wednesday.
Real need to win their final Group B game against the already eliminated
Italians in order to ensure they qualify for the knockout stages.
The match will be played behind close doors as part of the punishment
given to Roma by UEFA for incidents that occurred in an earlier home
game against Dynamo Kiev.
"It will be a strange game because there will be no fans," said Zidane.
"But all that counts is that we get through. Whether we play well or
badly doesn't matter, the important thing is to stay in the Champions