Zinedine Zidane calls Real Madrid's Clasico win important 'turning point'
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane agreed that Saturday's 2-1 La Liga Clasico win at Barcelona could mark a turning point as their season nears its decisive phase.
Madrid went to the Camp Nou as underdogs after an unimpressive domestic season so far, and seemed set for another big game defeat when Gerard Pique headed Barca ahead early in the second half.
But the visitors showed character to stick in the game and equalised through Karim Benzema, with Cristiano Ronaldo then netting a late winner even after Madrid captain Sergio Ramos had been deservedly sent off after repeated fouling.
The Los Blancos coach told his post-match news conference said that the boost from the victory in such a huge fixture could push his team on for the remainder of the campaign -- starting with Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Wolfsburg.
"This can be a turning point -- it is very important, for the rest of the season, for our spirit," Zidane said. "And just before we play in the Champions League in Germany. Before the game, we wanted to keep doing what we are doing, preparing well. These are three points -- it is a derbi, it is better to win it, but these are [just] three points.
"Now we must think about resting well, and the next game, which is very important for us, and for what we want to do."
Barca had seemed set to stroll to the La Liga title, but with seven games to play are now just six points ahead of second-placed Atletico, with Madrid a further point back in third. Zidane said the title race was not over yet, while cautiously declining to predict what might happen by May.
"We are seven points back, now we must think about next game, which is not in La Liga," he said. "Then on Saturday we will think about La Liga [at home to Eibar], and the three points, just the same.
"Nothing else than thinking about winning the next game. First we must pass out Atletico Madrid, we are still third in the table. And nothing more.
"Then we will see what happens. There are still games to play. To win here is an enormous prize for all the players. They played an enormous game."
Madrid rode their luck at times as Barca dominated possession through much of the game, in what was an emotional occasion after a prematch tribute to recently deceased Blaugrana legend Johan Cruyff.
Zidane said he was particularly happy at how his team had stuck in the match and came good at the end.
"I'm very happy with everything, not just the result," he said. "It was tough at the start, that's normal, this is a difficult ground to play in. I am very proud of my players, I liked everything about my team -- in attack and defence.
"We made a huge effort, against very good players. When I see us like that, united, giving everything for your teammate, for a coach that is the best. Our start was not so good, but better to start difficult and end well as we have done."
The Frenchman accepted a suggestion that the physical preparation he had worked on since replacing Rafa Benitez as coach in January had paid off late in the game.
"When you score a goal here, the second goal, it shows that physically we ended the game very well," he said. "But now we must rest, as we must go until the end of the season, a game every three days."
The selection of low-profile holding midfielder Casemiro for a huge game was another change from Benitez's time in charge, but Zidane declined to put his side's new-found resilience down to any one player.
"Casemiro's role has been fundamental, but just like them all," he said. "I cannot pick out one player in particular. Above all defensively we played enormous game against very good players. With very little space they can do you damage. And we controlled that well.
"I am happy for Madrid fans who can be proud of their players."