Real play down clasico importance
Real Madrid defender Christoph Metzelder does not believe next weekend's top-of-the-table meeting with Barcelona will be decisive in the La Liga title race. Manuel Pellegrini's team last night secured their 12th successive win in the Spanish top flight - 2-0 at Racing Santander - to ensure they will head into Saturday's clasico on top of the standings on goal difference from their great rivals.
"We had to win no matter what," Metzelder told the club's official website. "The fact that we didn't concede any goals and that we are leaders again is good news.
"Both Barcelona and Real Madrid are winning all their matches, so I am sure next week's game will be crucial. However, there are still other difficult matches to be played, meaning that Saturday's will not decide who wins La Liga."
For the third successive round, Real had been provisionally knocked off the summit by Barça winning 24 hours previously, but the capital club responded again last night with a hard-fought victory over lowly Racing. Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half penalty and Gonzalo Higuain's strike 14 minutes from time secured the points for the visitors at El Sardinero.
Pellegrini will take his side into the duel with Pep Guardiola's team in understandably confident mood, but warning his players not to get careless. "We need to do what we do on a daily basis in order to win next Saturday," said the Chilean.
"We cannot lose our identity. We will seek the victory and whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win. Both of us won our matches this weekend. We are up against great opponents, but I am sure we will win if we focus and stick to our football.
"The clasico is just another match that has to be played and it is followed by more matches. We cannot make any mistakes from here on out because we won't be facing any easy teams."
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was delighted to shut out Racing and paid tribute to the men in front of him. "Our defence was outstanding and we managed to keep a clean sheet. We did a good job," he said.
"Saturday's clasico is just another match on the calendar. It will be fun. I am shocked about how many points we both have. It's quite unusual."