Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, has challenged his players to treat their remaining 11 LaLiga games like a World Cup final as they aim to overtake Barcelona to win their second league title in eight years.
Real sit two points behind Barca and return after three months away against Eibar on Sunday, when they will play in their new training ground home at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.
LaLiga is due to finish on July 19, meaning there will be fixtures every day while clubs will be in action almost every three days for five and a half weeks.
Asked if felt like the start of a World Cup, Zidane said on Saturday: “I like the comparison, I buy into it. My players know what it’s like to play in the final stages of a World Cup or European Championship.
“The important thing is the preparation and I think we have prepared very, very well. Our first match starts tomorrow and we will give everything. I have faith what we have done with the players and now we have to show it on the field.”
LaLiga matches are being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, although league president Javier Tebas has said stadiums could be allowed to be 10 to 15 per cent full before the end of the season.
“I don’t like playing without fans, that’s my opinion,” Zidane said. “But as always, we have to adapt. This is the situation. There is a government with people who do their work and we have to do ours.”
Real are playing at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium to allow renovation work to continue at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer.
The capacity is only 6,000 which would mean far fewer fans could attend if the ban is relaxed.
“My players want to play in front of an audience and right now, there isn’t one,” Zidane said. “But if those in charge say we can, well then we’ll see. I have been a player and I prefer to play with fans. But it is not an excuse, we are going to play well.”
Eden Hazard has been included in the squad to face Eibar after he was able to use the break to recover from a foot injury and Marco Asensio is also available again after rupturing his cruciate ligaments last year.
But Zidane said striker Luka Jovic could miss the run-in after injuring his foot at home and Lucas Vazquez is also out.